Michael McDonagh spoke to Ros Scanlon about Hammersmith’s Irish Cultural Centre’s ambitious Autumn-Winter programme of artistic events
Back in the 80s there were two really excellent ambitious Irish Cultural Festivals in London called A Sense of Ireland. Playwright Rosalind Scanlon did a great job organising the second one, which is when I first met her as I was working with Van Morrison and he played for her with the Chieftains.
Following on from that success she was appointed later as Artistic Director of the original Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith from 1999 to 2009 and now with the brand new building up and running she has returned to run an exciting programme of events, covering for General Manager Colette Mackin who is on maternity leave.
Born in London with Irish parents from Donegal, Ros has an impeccable track record in organising Irish cultural events in London from putting on concerts to staging plays.
In addition she has written over 13 plays herself many of them, such as Dance Hall Days or her play about the fans of Daniel O’Donnell, Lovin’ Daniel, have been popular and well received.
Ros is noted for often casting the people she meets in daily life to play roles alongside the professional actors in her productions. Many of these people have been found amongst the elderly and retired who came here as immigrants.
Was it at Sense of Ireland we first met?
“Yes It was the second one in 1988. It was incredible. We even had currach racing on the Thames.
“It was an amazing three week festival of Irish Culture and all the pubs on the river sold out and Van played with the Chieftans.
“My parents came from Donegal in the late 50s and I was brought up in Fulham. Music was always on in my house from Jim Reeves to Larry Cunningham and that music is still important to me today.
“I was a young playwright at The Riverside then I was asked to be a Cultural Officer for the Federation of Irish Societies I went around the country to find more and more Irish Music, then I came back and did a Festival at the Waterman’s, which we did for two years.
Having been Artistic Director at Hammersmith from 1999-2009 she is now delighted to be back, albeit on a temporary basis.
“It is such a beautiful space and it is very exciting to be at the beginning of it and to see where it will go.
“I’ve got lots of enthusiasm for it and it is exciting at a time when things are closing down elsewhere and we are opening with beautiful space for the Irish Community and the whole of London.
“It is a real gem and we are putting together an excellent programme. We have Dervish coming very soon then Paddy Keenan, the great Irish piper from the Bothy Band and we have Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, who are a stadium act.
“We are only a 180-seater but they have agreed to come back as they have such good memories of the space.
“Then we have Andy Irvine who was with Planxty coming and next year we have Michael McGoldrich as well as Arty McGlynn and Nollaig Casey.
“It is going to be exciting to ignite this building again with wonderful music but also with Irish theatre whilst the building is available for hire to other theatre groups and of course we have Art Exhibitions too.
“The Barbara Stanley Gallery is based here now featuring top Irish Artists and there are some great films lined up for the film nights too, including a documentary retrospective”.