Big Night in Camden

Mitch Winehouse

By David Hennessy

This Thursday May 23, Camden Irish Centre will be the venue for a night of entertainment MC’d by Today FM DJ Ray D’Arcy and featuring music from Mitch Winehouse and his Big Band, Mick Flannery and Wallis Bird. Supported by the Amy Winehouse Foundation, there will be an auction with prizes donated by Ed Sheeran, Imelda May, Damien Dempsey and Brian Kennedy. All proceeds from the event will go to LauraLynn House and the London Irish Centre charity.

“We’re very much looking forward to it,” Mitch Winehouse told The Irish World. “We’ve got a great relationship with the Irish Centre so we’re really looking forward to it. We met Ray D’Arcy shortly after Amy passed away actually. We were in Ireland, I think it was the first visit that we made to the LauraLynn and that would have been the October or November, and we said: ‘We’re gonna be doing some stuff in London with the Irish Centre’, if he would get involved and he couldn’t do enough for us. These are really great people to give up their time and come all the way over from Ireland.

“People have been extremely generous, obviously not everybody can attend because people have got previous commitments that they can’t change but they’ll send a little gift along, something that can be auctioned on the day and I think that just shows you how much the Irish Centre and LauraLynn mean to people both in Ireland and London.

“LauraLynn’s the only independent children’s hospice in southern Ireland so it needs all the support it can get and they’re just doing wonderful work there. I thought children’s hospices were where young people go to die, and they do but they also go and live and enjoy themselves there and get out and give their parents a break. They’re wonderful places really, full of life, full of fun and it’s just great being with the kids and seeing the work that they do, not only in LauraLynn but in all the children’s hospices because we support a number over here too. It’s very worthwhile and Amy loved kids so she’s very much behind us in all of this.”

Mitch, who turned on the Irish Centre’s Christmas lights in 2011, says this is another chapter in the great relationship the family has with the centre: “Her house was a few houses down from the Irish Centre in Camden Square so Amy was walking past it every day and she would pop in and speak to the old girls there and some of the chaps. She loved it there. She really had a good relationship with them.”

Amy Winehouse in Dingle

This July, it will be two years since the multi-Grammy Award and Ivor Novello winning singer, Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning, aged 27. Since then, Mitch and family has launched the Amy Winehouse Foundation to work with young people in need due to poor health, a disadvantaged background, addiction problems or other issues. Does Mitch feel Amy’s presence while working tirelessly with the charity? “Well, I feel Amy’s presence all the time anyway. Some people think I’m deluded, Other people- People have got different beliefs but this is my belief and I know what I’m like now compared to what I used to be like when Amy was alive.

“There were things I was working on before Amy passed away: I had spoken in the houses of parliament to the (home affairs) select committee on drugs and I spoke about not enough people getting into rehab because if you haven’t got any money in this country, basically you’re left to die if you’ve got an addiction problem so I spoke about that but generally speaking, I led a very kind of lazy, selfish life and I know how my life has changed and that’s, I feel, because Amy is encouraging me and the rest of the family to just roll our sleeves up and get on with it and that’s what we’re doing.”

This September is a sad milestone for the Winehouse family as the 14th would have been Amy’s 30th birthday. There is much planned to honour the much loved singer with an exhibition of unseen photographs and personal belongings running at the Jewish Museum in Camden from July 3. There are also plans for a statue of Amy to be erected at Camden venue The Roundhouse and for a London road to be named after the tragic singer: “We’ve been involved in all of that as well as the foundation so we’re very, very busy. The statue is my project, my son is co-ordinating the Jewish Museum in Camden Town, that’s going to be great and we’ve got lots of things happening in September.

For the full interview, see the print edition of the May 25 Irish World.

Mitch Winehouse’s Big Band can be seen at the Big Night Out at Camden Irish Centre on May 23.

For more information about the Amy Winehouse Foundation, go to: http://www.amywinehousefoundation.org/.

For more information about LauraLynn House, go to: www.lauralynn.ie/lauralynn-house.html.

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