By Shelley Marsden
Thursday night’s Ceiliúradh at the Royal Albert Hall was a showcase of the best of Irish poetry, music and dance.
In a packed two-hour programme which included performances from singers such as Elvis Costello, Imelda May and Glenn Hansard, the home of British concert-going was given a distinctly Irish feel.
Hosted by X Factor’s Dermot O’Leary, the evening also included stirring readings by actress Fiona Shaw, novelist Joseph O’Connor and journalist Olivia O’Leary.
President Michael D. Higgins, who was accompanied by his wife Sabina and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, was given a standing ovation as he prepared to give a speech towards the end of the evening.
He said he wished to thank several people not only for the entertainment on the night, but everyone who had made “the past few days, so positive and uplifting.”
He said: “The evident grace and warmth with which they have prepared for, and arranged, my State Visit is reflective of the true and deep friendship that now exists between Ireland and the United Kingdom.”
“This celebration, above all, is for the thousands of Irish people in this Hall who have made Britain their home or whose parents or grandparents did,as well as the friends, neighbours, relatives and in-laws, they have brought along.
“I thank you most sincerely for the fidelity you have shown to Ireland over many years; for the contribution you have made to the development of Britain; and for your part in the consolidation of an enduring friendship between our two countries.
“You remain a cherished member of the Irish family. I thank all of you who have travelled to be here, be your journeys long or short.
“On a night like this, it is great to be Irish. And it is even better to share it in the company of our friends in Britain. Ar aghaidh leis an gceol.”
If you missed the live streaming of the concert, you can view it on the RTE iPLayer, or catchthe highlights on BBC4 this Sunday at 8pm.
Buy next week’s Irish World for our full review of the night, and much more!