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Kildare is tapping into the St Brigid revival to connect with its diaspora

Kildare is marking the 1500th anniversary of St Brigid’s death with a week-long festival that includes, Denise Chaila, Imelda May, Darina Allen, Jess Murphy, Laura Whitmore, Una Healy and Riverdance.

Brigid 1500 hosted by Kildare County Council, aims to celebrate St. Brigid in what it says is a contemporary and modern way.

Chief Executive of Kildare County Council Sonya Kavanagh said: “This programme beautifully weaves together the rich tapestry of our cultural heritage, and we look forward to witnessing the magic it brings to Kildare, capturing the essence of St. Brigid’s legacy and the remarkable contributions of Irish women in the arts.”

Paula O’Brien of Kildare County Council told The Irish World: “We feel like we own Brigid. She started her monastery and everything here. Other counties might like to claim her as well.

“It is the 1500th anniversary of St. Brigid’s death.

“That’s really what we’re celebrating and commemorating in Kildare with our focus on bringing communities together. It’s a series of concerts and talks and workshops and light shows. The real aim is to bring communities together and bring tourism to the county and highlight the values of St. Brigid.

“The messages of Brigid are still as relevant today as they were back 1500 years ago.”

The festival hopes to connect with Kildare’s diaspora.

“It’s that link and we’re getting calls from all over the world. We are linking in with our Tourism Ireland office who are bringing people from the UK, from around Europe to Kildare so it’s a great platform for Kildare to showcase what we have and to showcase the county.

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“Having the Bank Holiday is a marker to how much we value our matron saint. Kildare people around the world absolutely see the value and see the importance of it.”

Laura Whitmore will MC the Nothing Compares In Concert at The Moat Theatre.

Although St Brigid’s Day is not until Thursday festivities kicked off last Saturday with a Mother Earth Food Symposium featuring Darina Allen, Julia Hemingway, Darcie Mayland and others.

It was followed by the Mother Earth concert  featuring Denise Chaila – who will lead festivities at the Embassy of Ireland in London on the day itself – Gemma Hayes, Róisín O, Tolü Makay and Una Healy.

On Tuesday the We Shall Overcome concert centres on songs of social justice by Eleanor McEvoy, Mary Coughlan, Pauline Scanlon, Jess Kav and Toshín.

On Thursday 1 February, St Brigid’s Day itself, there the Nothing Compares concert will feature Irish women including Imelda May, HamsandwicH, Camille O’Sullivan, Niamh Regan, Nell Mescal and Laura Whitmore.

On Sunday (4 February) there will be a special event featuring traditional and contemporary songs about Irish women entitled She Moved Through the Fair featuring Moya Brennan, Loah, Lisa Lambe and The Henry Girls.

LUXE Landscape Theatre will lead two fiery processions to celebrate St Brigid in Maynooth and Kildare towns over the bank holiday weekend.

Riverdance will be performed at a family event at the Curragh Racecourse on Saturday (3 February).

“It’s really celebrating Irish culture and St Brigid especially on the Curragh plains where Brigid stretched her cloak

“We have Riverdance, and we have Celine Byrne, a leading soprano who’s a Kildare woman. We have Kila as well – so we have a great lineup there.”

There will also be a screening of a film about the Dunne’s Stores anti-apartheid strikers.

“We’re (hoping) to get the women down to have a discussion and a screening of the film. It’s a lovely message – Brigid lends herself to all of these great messages. Kildare will be full of fire and light for the next week – it really is putting Kildare on the map from a tourism perspective and celebrating the woman that is St Brigid.”

“While (St Brigid) can be celebrated by men and women – it’s an inclusive program, she’s a very inclusive person – it IS a celebration of women, and strong women.

“Our message is we are celebrating the woman – her life, her legacy, and we want to not just have this big bang but a continuing legacy, because we see the importance of Brigid and how connected people are to her around the world.

“She was really cool, and when you think about her connection to the environment, her connection with animals or connection with nature, her connection with people with hospitality, it is absolutely brilliant – inclusiveness, equity, fairness, peace and justice.

“That is why it’s becoming very popular.

“The schools program we developed in Kildare County Council is available for anyone from all over the world to download on our website. It’s an education and gives you background on what Brigid did, and the fantastic work that she has done.

“It sets the scene for what life was like when Brigid was alive and how much she came through. She was able to do so much good in that time. She really was a trailblazer. She’s brilliant.”

Q: Why was she forgotten for so long?

“I wouldn’t say that she was a hundred per cent forgotten. Fantastic women like Sister R

ita and Solas Bhride have kept that flame burning, literally following in Brigid’s footsteps and keeping the message of Brigid alive. The resurgence is the tireless work of Solas Bhride. People see the relevance of the message in today’s society. You see all the fighting going on around the world and her message is so relevant.”

See brigid1500.ie for the full festival programme.

Kildare County Council wants to support its Kildare diaspora to connect with each other through relevant and interesting stories, events and news relating to Kildare’s international connections.  If you would like to connect or reconnect with Kildare, please complete the short questionnaire here. You will receive relevant information relating to Kildare and its global network by submitting your information and you can withdraw your consent at any time.

Kildare Diaspora is also active on Facebook and LinkedIn, where you can keep up-to-date with news and events.

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