Neil Beattie is one of the artists of The Ogham Grove at this year’s Culture Night Belfast.

Belfast Designer and Engineer, Neill Beattie’s work is extremely varied. He has trained as a graphic designer and worked in the industry full time for 15 years as a Graphic Designer, Design Director and Creative Director in several design companies, after which he co-founded a renewable energy company that designed and installed solar PV systems and wind turbines across UK and Ireland.

Neil remained in both industries throughout and he continues to take on various other design related roles, whether graphics, filming and editing, furniture design, developing smart energy systems, installing solar panels, or building websites and apps.

The Ogham Grove runs from Friday September 17th 2021 to Sunday 19th September at Writer’s Square, Belfast.

How did you get started in the industry?

With every venture that I’ve ended up being involved in, it has nearly always been by chance. Someone I meet is doing something interesting and I want to be part of it. Even starting out as a graphic designer was by chance. When I left school I went for an interview for a foundation course in Art College, was told that my work was very ‘graphicy’ and advised to go for an interview for the Graphic Design course on the other side of the corridor. Disheartened, I stuck around for the interview, and when the tutors (Deidre and Dermot) explained that Graphic Design was a combination of magazine design, billboards, book design, photography, video, illustration (not web design – the internet didn’t really exist then), I was immediately hooked. Thankfully they gave me a place.

What genre / style do you create in?

Whatever genre or style that suits the project. Granted, all creatives have their preferred styles, but the mark of a good designer or illustrator of photographer is the ability to create a piece that is perfect for the job at hand. Inevitably your own style will be incorporated in to the project, but sometimes you have to swing left or right to arrive at the best solution for the job.

What would you be best known for?

The guy that can make things, do things and fix things. A lot of people think I am a workaholic but I don’t think of it as being work.

What would you consider your biggest achievement?

Doing what I like to do. Realising that money and a linear career are nowhere near as important as having a variety of work, having challenges that push you far out of your comfort zone, and most importantly, having fun in what you do.

What would you consider to be the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your industry?

Big corporations don’t always tell the truth. In my experience, many of the people that work in larger companies (and some small companies albeit less so) tend to have their own agenda and are willing to lead you down the garden path. I reckon that nearly everyone who has started a company or worked for themselves has had a similar experience, and it’s a hard lesson to learn. I’m very grateful that I can now pick and choose the projects I work on, and much of the reason for getting involved in a project is because of the genuine nature of the people that I’ll working with.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

Three months in the bush living with and filming tribes in Papua New Guinea. Very tough, but I loved it.

Tell us a little about your personal life, are you married, kids, hobbies etc?

I’m married to Ruth McGuigan, we have been together for 25 years and we have a 5 year old foster son, John Barr. My hobby is making things, whatever they may be.

Tell us about your most recent work?

I am currently the Lead Product Designer in Encom Energy Systems, developing smart energy products that automate your electricity generation, storage and usage, such as Solar and Wind Battery Systems, EV Car Chargers, Water Heaters and Air Source Heat Pumps.

What would you like us to tell people about?

SOLAR PV. If everyone had Solar PV on their roof, we wouldn’t be in an energy and climate crisis. We would have so much excess energy that we could develop massive climate projects that would return the environment back to pre-industrial era. And it also would dramatically lower everybody’s electricity bills.

If you had to describe your work to someone who has never heard of you what would you say?

I design and build things. I can’t get anymore specific than that.

What’s the funniest experience you’ve had in your business?

There’s too many to note. Lots of them wouldn’t be anywhere near as funny out of context. Some of them I shouldn’t repeat. But it’s nearly always fun. The people I work with are fun, the projects I work on are fun. Full on heavy work, but fun.

What would your advice be to young people hoping to pursue the same industry?

Do what you enjoy. The money may not be as good as you’d like, but enjoying what you do for 8+ hours a day is far more important than money. Don’t consider that you can do just one thing. You can do whatever you put your mind too.

Anything else you want to tell people about yourself or your work?

I don’t like kale.

Who do you look up to and why?

My wife, my friends, my parents, my late Grandad. Because they all inspire me to do things. Also Nikola Tesla, Ada Lovelace, Jonny Ives, Graeme Obree, Alexander Supertramp. Generally the underdog that keeps trying.