Luton celebrates 1916 as the Poets’ Rebellion

Luton celebrates 1916 as the Poets’ Rebellion

Remembering 1916: Major cultural event examined how Rising cleared the way for a sense of Irish culture

Luton Irish Forum earlier this month celebrated the centenary of them 1916 Easter Rising by focusing on how independence was the stepping stone to creating a more rich and unified Irish culture.

In so doing it celebrated Irish poets, playwrights and artists such as W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and George William Russell under the rubric of The Poet’s Rebellion at local venue The Hat Factory. ‘The Poet’s Rebellion’ featured talks and entertainment from musical guests and actors and traditional Irish music from John, Joe and Caz Devine with Eugene Teevan.

Luton celebrates 1916 as the Poets’ Rebellion

Musician and BBC Radio presenter Cerys Matthews – who has had Ireland’s Ambassador Dan Mulhall on her 6Music radio show to celebrate WB Yeats – was one of the star attractions.

So too, was a performance of Danny Boy by Colm and Christian Traynor of the Westminster Cathedral Choir School. Ambassador Mulhall spoke on Ireland 1916: a tale of two Thomases (MacDonagh and Kettle) while Dr. Ivan of St Mary’s University in Twickenham discussed both the English and Irish perspectives of the days that shaped the history of Ireland in his lecture entitled 1916 – What Did It All Mean? in which he took an in-depth look at the response of Britain’s three major political parties to the shock of the Easter Rising and other responses from the British establishment and society at large.

Luton celebrates 1916 as the Poets’ Rebellion

“This is an amazing opportunity to discover what the immediate response was in Britain to the trauma and upheaval of the Easter Rising an approach which is usually neglected in any consideration of the impact of this momentous event.”

Dr Ivan Gibbons who was Programme Director and Senior Lecturer in Irish Studies in St Mary’s College, Twickenham Katy Carr performed her interpretation of Padraic Colum’s ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ and recalled how it was while playing for a Polish community at the Luton Irish Forum that she learned about the event and decided she really had to take part.

“The event resonated with me immensely because the songs I have written for my last two albums Paszport (2012) and Polonia (2015) have been inspired by themes connected with the Second World War experience in Poland on the Eastern front and centre around loss of passport, loss of country, rebellion and refugee status.

Luton celebrates 1916 as the Poets’ Rebellion

‘She Moved Through the Fair’ is a very emotive song and I think would resonate with a lot of Polish WWII veterans,” she said.

A highlight of the afternoon will be an interpretive drama presentation to commemorate the Easter Rising by students from Cardinal Newman: A group of students have taken part in a study session as they learn about the Easter Rising in Ireland, 1916. As they make new discoveries through their history books, they are transported back to the event and experience it for themselves.

‘The Poet’s Rebellion’ concludes at 5.30pm after a performance from Kristine and Joe Wilkinson-Hughes who will be composing and performing a song specially written during these proceedings to conclude the day. Kristine and Joe perform as ‘My Girl the River’ and are set to perform their latest album, on the acoustic stage at this year’s Isle of Wight Festival.


As part of the commemorations to the 1916 Easter Rising, the event also hosted a ‘Easter 1916’ exhibit by artist Declan Kerr at the Hat Factory.

“When I started the Easter 1916 series I initially thought of covering only the main people (the seven signatories of the Proclamation), but as I started doing research on those characters I was struck by how so many more brave women and men came together that Easter week; these are people forgotten by the mainstream history books. Look at these people – among them were bakers, nurses, doctors and teachers. Scottish, English and Irish. Catholic and Protestant.

“Can we now even imagine what deep conviction they held? There was a joyous lunacy in the air – a fantastic idealism, that these people could, by making a stand, create a New Ireland. I can hear them breathing, walking beside us on the streets, quietly watching, while we still strive to create an Ireland where every person is valued equally. Look at these people, and see the future they envisaged,” he said. “By remembering them we will see they still live, in us, today,” he added.

His exhibition portrayed the men and women of the time in non-glamorous ‘mundane’ settings, showing them as people, not so different from any of us, who had conviction that they could change their world and make a real difference.

Find out more about the Luton Irish Forum here:


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