Irish people in Britain get ready for St Patrick’s Day
Adam Shaw looks at the parties, parades and celebrations lined up across London as the Irish get ready to turn the country green in March
London will host a three-day St. Patrick’s Day extravaganza this year to celebrate the contribution of the Irish to the capital.
The city’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced the details of the festival, which will run from Friday 17 March until Sunday 19 March. A number of events are scheduled including the famed annual parade, an Irish street food market and several film screenings.
Now in its 16th year, the London St. Patrick’s Day celebrations attract over 100,000 people, culminating in a gathering in Trafalgar Square. The extension to three days is intended to reflect the growing interest in a diverse and wide-ranging appreciation of Irish culture.
Dan Mulhall, the Irish Ambassador, welcomed the news and said it will be a great showcase of “Irish culture and the atmosphere intrinsic to Ireland. It takes the celebrations in London to a new level,” he explained.
Jacqueline Rose, who represented Mr Khan at the announcement at the Irish Embassy, urged Irish businesses in the capital to maintain their support for the festival.
“Cultural diversity is one of the city’s key strengths and the contribution of the Irish is a part of that,” she added. “London really does celebrate the Irish and its culture.”
Mr Khan has expressed his desire to expand the recognition of cultural diversity in London. He heartily attended the city’s Pride parade last year and has appointed Justine Simons OBE as Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries.
In addition to creating this new position, he promised further support for the arts, culture and creative industries as one of the core priorities of his administration. He pledged to attend this year’s parade to celebrate the contribution of the Irish in London but also stressed that it is important to recognise it the whole year round.
TV favourite Dermot O’Leary, a patron of the London Irish Centre in Camden, will also be taking part by acting as a judge for a children’s art competition. There will also be a treasure hunt and a number of performances from Irish artists at London Underground stations.
• For full details of timings and locations across the capital, visit www.london.gov.uk/events
Events for your St. Patrick’s diary
Trafalgar Square stage
Trafalgar Square will once again host a main stage, Irish street food market, tea tent and an Irish shop. Jarlath Regan, one of the most prolific Irish stand-up comedians of the past decade will be your host for St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
The packed line-up includes the Late Late Show House Band who’ll play a selection of Irish favourites. There’ll also be performances by Liam O’Maonlai, Lisa Lambe, Jack L and some very special guests.
Then there’s country star Derek Ryan and his band who’ll be sure to get the crowd singing and toes tapping. There’ll be Irish hip-hop too in the form of the fantastic Rusangano Family as well as energetic neo-trad band MOXIE.
Music and dance will flow from the Trad Gathering Project, while the #IamIrish Collective will present a multicultural mix of music. You can also enjoy Irish dance from the Maguire O’Shea Academy. If you’re a fan of musicals, don’t miss the showcase of Irish performers making waves in the West End.
The day will close with a massive singalong finale, which will feature, among others, three powerful Irish female voices.
Over 5,000 people take part in the annual parade including walking groups, marching bands, performance groups and up to 40 floats. This year’s parade will once again feature last year’s show stealer: Galway performance group Macnus. Leading the parade as the Grand Marshall will be remarkable London based Irish comedian Dara O’Briain!
Irish street food
An Irish-themed Bord Bia street food market will see Irish chef John Relihan head up a lineup of foodie treats. There will be an Irish craft beer tent serving drinks from Rye River Brewing Co and Carlow Brewing.
A number of Underground tube stations will host live performances from buskers and choirs from across the London Irish scene.
An Irish-themed treasure hunt will take place around Trafalgar Square on Sunday, March 19. The trail will take around 90mins to complete and is suitable for all ages. This addition is designed to provide family audiences, in particular, with an alternative to the square’s celebrations.
Works by Co. Armagh artist John B Vallely will be exhibited at City Hall. Vallely is a critically-acclaimed painter and musician whose work features the traditions, sport, music and mythology of rural Ireland. City Hall will also host a lecture night, curated by the Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith, with details to be announced soon. More info at www.irishculturalcentre.co.uk
St. Patrick’s Film Festival
Irish Film London will once again host a programme of Irish film screenings at venues across London with content aimed at both family and older audiences. This year’s line-up includes screenings at Leicester Square’s Prince Charles Cinema: Irish thriller Traders, starring Love/Hate’s Killian Scott and Game of Thrones star John Bradley and box office smash hit comedy The Young Offenders. Their family programme will run at Regent Street Cinema, and includes a screening of, and children’s shadow animation workshop based around, Oscar nominated animation Song of the Sea. There will also be an extensive programme of Irish shorts screening at the prestigious London Film School. More info at www.irishfilmlondon.com
Children’s art competition
X Factor host Dermot O’Leary will join Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to judge a primary school art competition where children across the city will be asked to design a banner to lead the St Patrick’s Day Parade.
St. Patrick’s Festival at Camden Market
Taking over the iconic Camden Market on Saturday 18th March, the celebrations include a music-led cultural trail, family festival, Irish food, a Guinness bar, and a live concert featuring traditional and contemporary Irish music from Kila and Moxie. Plus, all the live action from the Ireland v England Six Nations game will be shown on big screens at 5pm. More info at www.camdenmarket.com
St Patrick’s Day lunches in London
• Haringey Irish Pensioners, Haringey Irish Centre, 9 March.
• Greenwich Irish Pensioners Association, Clarendon Hotel Blackheath, 15 March.
• Southwark Irish Pensioners, Millwall FC, 15 March.
• Lewisham Pensioners and Community Centre, Lewisham Irish Centre, 17 March.
• Irish Network Stevenage, Holiday Inn, 17 March.
• Failte Club Hillingdon, Hays, 20 March.