A special edition of RTÉ’s Late Late Show will be broadcast live from London next month for the second time in its storied history. Members of the Irish community in the UK are being urged to partake in a “celebration of the historic ties” between the two countries.
Marking host Ryan Tubridy’s tenth year at the helm, the long-running talkshow will be recorded live from a yet-to-be-disclosed Central London location on October 12 – just the second time the series has filmed overseas.
The Late Late Show last took place in London for a St. Patrick’s Day special fifty years ago on the night of 16 March, 1968 – airing from the Irish Centre in Camden Town.
Gay Byrne was the host on that night, having been the face of the show for 37 years between 1962 and 1999. Pat Kenny then stepped in for a decade following Byrne’s final episode.
The next long-term host came in Ryan Tubridy – who took over in 2009 – and now stands as RTÉ’s highest earning broadcaster.
Applications can now be made online to enter the lottery allocation of tickets. For this special episode of the programme, the audience will be expanded to “over a thousand people”, the largest Ireland’s flagship chat-show has ever had.
“We felt that the story between Britain and Ireland for the past 18 months, since the Brexit vote essentially, has been kind of negative and it doesn’t really tell the story about the relationship between our two countries.
“While that sounds highfalutin, the fact of the matter is that there are many 10s of thousands of people in Britain – first generation, second generation, third generation – with Irish links.
“We feel that those links are too strong to break. It’s almost the sense of going over and saying, ‘We will still part of your family, you’ll be a part of our’s’. Culturally, traditionally, socially; they can’t break those connections,” he said.
The cross-section of guests, and audience members, Tubridy says, is hoped to be wide, taking in generations of the Irish diaspora from various backgrounds and age-brackets.
“This is about Britain and all of the other villages and towns that were forged by Irish people who were either forced or felt the need to go abroad, ” he said, adding, “It’s very much a celebration; it’s about achievement”.
The original London show – hosted by a young Gay Byrne – stirred some controversy at the time. There were unverified claims that 48 per cent of London’s “illegitimate children” were born to Irish mothers, although some studies have said that many unmarried Irish mothers – fearful of being forcibly institutionalised by Catholic authorities in Ireland – fled and emigrated to the UK.
These allegations were suggestive of some of the ill-treatment and stereotypes the Irish encountered in the UK, a matter which is now well-reported.
“Some of the myths about the Irish were explored, and a few exploded,” Irish Times critic Ken Gray wrote of the show. He later writes of London camera operators’ incompetency compared to the Dublin standard, noting “out-of-focus blurs” and “occasional alarming close-ups” of studio equipment.
Two IRA representatives – Cathal Goulding and Richard Behal – were also guests on the show and they spoke candidly about the organisation, violence, British naval visits and Princess Margaret.
This was just one year before the IRA splintered and the Provisional IRA launched its offensive campaign against British forces. Sir Andrew Gilchrist, then British ambassador to Ireland, rebuked Behal’s remarks about naval visits and Princess Margaret.
On the show, Behal said that he had fired shots at a British warship in an Irish port and that during a Princess Margaret visit to Ireland, he had cut down trees in her path, an archived Irish Times article revealed from unsealed cabinet documents.
Another guest was Eamon Andrews – who had acted as RTÉ’s chairman during the years of The Late Late Show’s boom before being forced to resign by the Catholic hierarchy after some content was deemed salacious and questionable.
This year’s special, unlike the 1968 edition, will be recorded and it’s hoped that a relaxed format will encourage free-flowing debate, storytelling and conversation.
A diverse selection of invited guests is planned for the broadcast, with producers currently in the process of booking guests.
“The beauty of this show is that the guests will be from the worlds of entertainment, business, fashion, construction. We’re also looking for people with stories,” Tubridy commented.
“There’s no strict format and we will be hearing from all voices with Irish blood – from all sections of society – who are making an impact on Britain today and in the past.”
Writing in the Irish Press following the 1968 broadcast, TV critic Tom O’Dea said the show “brought together the more articulate, successful and glamorous Irish exiles”.
The location, and the invited guests, for Tubridy’s endeavour will be announced closer to the time of the show, but he did say that the show’s producers are “very happy” with their chosen venue.
There has been a “big” and “extremely favourable” response to the show, Tubridy noted. It is understood that due to the interest seen in both Ireland and the UK with the event, demand for tickets will be high.
Tubridy added that the show might prove impactful in sparking a more nuanced and balanced conversation about Ireland’s long-standing relationship with the UK.
“We would love to trigger some element of conversation between and among Irish people there about their relationship with Britain, its political system and the fallout of Brexit,” he said.
Tubridy added: “There’ll be a weight of expectation from people here and in the UK. My job is to bring it all along with the team and make it look and feel good.”
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