After this year’s St. Brigid’s Festival was launched with Siobhan McSweeney of Derry Girls and Aisling Bea at the Irish Embassy on Thursday night- check out our video and report here– the 2020 St. Brigid’s Festival continued with an art exhibition and traditional music at Hammersmith’s Irish Cultural Centre on Friday and Saturday respectively. There was also comedy, spoken word and music at London Irish Centre, Camden with special guests like Angela Scanlon and Tara Flynn.
On Sunday, the focus was on film with Irish Film London presenting a programme of short films that were either female led or female themed. This was followed by the London premiere of A Girl From Mogadishu which tells the story of Ifrah Ahmed, a survivor of female genital mutilation and now advocate for its eradication. You can read all about the film here.
The film’s writer and director Mary McGuckian was joined for a Q and A session by psychotherapist and social activist Leyla Hussein, playwright and Ireland’s Question Time hero Bonnie Greer and specialist midwife Comfort Momoh. Check out our video of the event below.
Mary told The Irish World: “The reclamation of Saint Brigid’s Day is such a wonderful development in Irish cultural life and it’s wonderful to have been selected by Irish Film London to present the film here.
“It’s about fundamentally the power of testimony and what happens when young strong voices emerge and tell their truths. They can become a phenomenal force and a channel for change.
“She’s a young woman with a heck of a story behind her already and that is now committed to the cinema screen. There are tough aspects to her story that are tough to tell and it’s phenomenal that she’s given the world the gift of that story because it’s having an impact.”
Leyla Hussein told The Irish World: “I get to have the privilege of knowing Ifrah personally. I’m also from Mogadishu and I’ve known her for a very, very long time so I feel very honoured I’ve been asked to chair this conversation for such an important screening here in London. I’m very honoured.
“It’s really the journey of a girl who is really trying to survive different situations and usually when people go through that, they could be horrible, mean people and Ifrah is the total opposite of that. It was the story of someone who chose to be the good side of that conversation. I said to Ifrah, ‘Ifrah, if you were a mean person, I would have understood. Because of what you went through, I would have understood it’.
“She made the choice. She will say to me, ‘Leyla, I survived it’.”
Bonnie Greer added: “I say yes to everything to do with Ireland and also black women.
“It’s a wonderful film. It’s a beautiful thought-provoking film.
“When somebody wins, people want to come forward. Ifrah won. That’s the most important thing. They can see that it’s possible to do. That’s the most important thing about the film, I think.
“She stands up, she’s successful, people recognise her gifts but you don’t go through that without paying a price. To keep moving, I loved her courage. You come away from that with someone who is deeply courageous and someone we can all learn something from I think.”
Comfort Momoh said: “I’m a specialist midwife and I’ve been working around FGM for over 20 years or more and I first met Ifrah when she was new in Ireland. I have followed her progress and it’s so inspiring to see what she has achieved to date. I’m here to meet amazing women as well working around domestic violence, working around FGM.”
Reflecting on the festivities, Ambassador Adrian O’Neill told The Irish World: “It’s been an amazing few days and it’s not quite over yet because on Tuesday evening we have the final event which is in the British Library with Catherine and Marie Heaney on the work of Seamus Heaney where he depicted a lot of powerful, strong women. It’s been fantastic.
The film this evening here, A Girl From Mogadishu, was also a beautiful film about this wonderful story about a human rights advocate from Somalia who came to Ireland, a story beautifully told by Mary McGuckian so it’s been a wonderful few days.”
A famous story tells of how Saint Brigid asked the King of Leinster for some land to start a convent. The King of Leinster said he would give her as much as her cloak covered and miraculously her cloak quickly grew to cover acres of land.
The ambassador references this when talking about the festival’s development: “It’s been a great success. This year we’ve had eight events across London over a five day period and not only in London but also Birmingham, Liverpool, Cardiff and Edinbugh. Satin Brigid has spread her cloak wide throughout Britain.”