Fiona O’Brien chats to Katie McPhilimey, the presenter of new Irish TV programme Midlands Life, on growing up in Coventry
Katie McPhilimey is no stranger to showcasing the best of what the Midlands have to offer, so it comes as no surprise that she is the face of Irish TV’s new show from the region.
She is a successful publisher of no less than seven lifestyle magazines across the area, and her business, Life 24 Seven, is going from strength to strength in a time when companies across the print industry are facing some of their bigger challenges.
“It has all worked out really well for us. Our first title was Warwickshire, Worcestshire and Birmingham. At that time I had made some contacts with some big businesses in Birmingham who wanted to reach out to an audience across the Shires, so the crossover for advertising appeal worked really well for them,” she says.
“Bigger companies are renowned for kind of shunning the regional newspapers and magazines, but we’ve managed to secure deals with everyone from Bentley and Rolls Royce to Harvey Nichols.
“I then opened up across wider areas, so we have a Staffordshire and West Midlands title now and a Herefordshire, Monmouthshire and Powys one too.
“It’s all about knowing your customers, so our advertising in that last one is more for tractors and things like that.”
Irish TV’s new secret weapon
She has now launched a new Wedding magazine for the region, and it all stems from her mixed bag of experience since leaving university with a computer science degree.
“It’s funny how it all came full circle. I did computer science and business at university, but it didn’t really appeal to me due to the work. I got interested in marketing as I love to meet people and I did a few courses and did well at it so I knew that was for me.”
A former Irish dancer and Coventry Rose of Tralee Katie is no stranger to the Irish community in the area, and after doing stints on cable TV when she was younger, she has proved to be the perfect candidate for Irish TV’s new show.
“It’s funny because I’m on it with Bob Brolly and he was trying to remember how long ago it was since we first met, and we worked out it was about 15 years ago when I was trying my hand on cable TV.
“I’m so excited to be able to bring a new flavour to Midlands coverage. It’s such a cosmopolitan area. On the one hand you have this tight-knit Irish community, but then you have all these buildings and venues that are renowned across the country like the NEC.
“There’s such a mixed ethnicity as well and they all embrace Irish culture, you see many Asian and African and Carribean faces at all of our Irish celebrations, and it’s just a brilliant mix.”
Katie’s own Irish heritage comes through both her mother and father with roots in Galway and Dublin.
“I spent every school holiday in Ireland rotating around the relatives – be it in Roscahill in County Galway, in Dublin or at my aunties holiday getaway in Wexford.
“I did a lot of my ‘naughty’ growing up in Dublin in my teenage years. I couldn’t get into any of the nightclubs at home because I wasn’t old enough, so I used to go over to my cousins for the weekend!
“The bouncers would hear my accent and assume I couldn’t be only 16 or 17 on holiday on my own, and with the help of some clever makeup I was in the doors easier than anything!
“I even had my first broken heart in Dublin…..I won’t share his name!”
Katie also fondly recalls her Rose of Tralee experience.
“The Rose of Tralee was brilliant for me. It all started with a bit of an argument with my Irish dancing teacher at the time,” says Katie.
“I had just finished a dance class and was absolutely dripping with sweat and she came out with this gorgeous dress.
“I was like, ‘that is lovely, what’s it for’. She just replied, ‘you, get changed into it now, we’re entering you into the Rose of Tralee’.
“I of course kicked up a huge fuss but she wasn’t taking no for an answer at all so I went along and I ended up winning it, I couldn’t believe it.”
The Coventry Rose that year didn’t make it to Tralee but Katie counts the time as one of the best experiences of her life.
“It was great, it opened up a whole new world of friends for me and I think that’s what it is all about, meeting people and networking.
“A lot of people I met when I first started working in and around the Irish community are still faces I meet and work with today.”
Check out the Irish TV website: www.irishtv.ie for Katie’s show, and to see the archive of shows from all over Ireland, the UK and the US.