Boyle: An Animation Station

30 November 2023 Leah Fairman By Leah Fairman

When Dubliner Stephen Fagan and his colleagues decided to set up an animation studio back in 2019, they opted for the gorgeous west of Ireland as their base – and haven’t looked back.  

‘A friend of mine suggested we try the Spool Factory in Boyle,’ recalls Stephen, CEO of Studio Meala. ‘I met Brian who runs the space, and he sold us in on both the Hub and town. We’re blessed that he has a real drive and community focus.’ 

Back then, the team started with just one desk in the Hub’s co-working space. ‘We were always set up to be a hybrid studio,’ Stephen explains. ‘At the time, I was based in the Spool Factory and we had people in Galway, Dublin and Kildare working with us, all being managed from that one desk.’ When Covid hit, nothing had to change too drastically. ‘We were already remote and had systems in place, ’Stephen recalls. ‘Over lockdown, we started to do more projects and the studio scaled up. Now we’ve taken over the entire top floor! There are five of us who come and go - because we’re hybrid, the Hub is there for the team to use if they want – that’s how we approach it.’ 

For Stephen, the benefits of utilising a Connected Hub in this way are endless. For one, he’s made some great friends. ‘We’ve got a lovely group of people in the Hub,’ he says. ‘I’m a Dub living in Roscommon, so I wouldn’t have known that many people. There’s a real sense of community here and some lovely friendships have developed. I’ll walk downstairs and ask, who’s going for coffee? There are other Hub users in HR consultancy, accounting, IT. You have access to expert knowledge all around you and can get advice on anything, which is a huge positive.’ 

The location has been a big plus when it comes to hiring, too. ‘Because of where we’re based, we attract a lot of international animators who've lived in cities all their lives. Living and working in a small Irish town is more appealing to them, and cheaper too.’ For Stephen, that’s important, as he wants Studio Meala to contribute to Boyle's economy. ‘That was key for us,’ he says. ‘We wanted animation to be a force for good. If we can get 10-20 people over time into the studio on a permanent basis, that’s money being spent in the town's shops, restaurants and bars. Helping the town regenerate because we’re here is what we want to do.’ 

The other huge benefit for Stephen and the team working out of the Spool Factory is flexibility. ‘What’s great about having access to the downstairs section of the Hub,’ he explains, ‘is that if we require overflow space, I just say to Brian, I need two more offices – and he makes it happen. For a company to scale up and down as needed is fantastic.’ 

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