By Anne Geaghan
This year’s Luton Irish Forum’s (LIF) St Patrick’s activities coincided with the organisation’s 20th Anniversary.
The week of celebrations began on Tuesday with the afternoon social at the Celtic Club in Chobham Street.
The Cardinal Newman School’s 50th Anniversary concert showcased the school’s orchestra and choir as well as local Comhaltas performers and the Walsh Academy Irish dancers. The Cliffoney Dramatic Society from Sligo performed Turning Mammy on Saturday at Luton Library Theatre.
On Sunday, the Luton Irish Forum choir performed the Sean O Riada Mass at the Our Lady Help of Christians church, attended by Rose Gaughan from the Embassy of Ireland. Members of the congregation were urged to hold their heads high as a tribute to Ireland’s patron saint.
The hailstones waited and a treat was in store this year, as the parade wound its way past the town hall.
Three marching bands and a drum band provided the live music as the crowd waved at the local county associations, GAA clubs, Polish organisations and new this year, a magnificent procession of vintage cars.
On stage at Market Hill, MC Jim Carway called for one minute of silence as a mark of respect to those who were murdered, injured or bereaved in last week’s attack on the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Luton Irish forum chairman Tom Scanlon introduced Luton’s Mayor Cllr Naseem Ayub and also the Mayors of Dunstable and Loughton.
Cllr Ayub shared her appreciation for LIF’s contribution to Luton’s diverse cultural heritage. Rose Gaughan praised the festival and assured the audience that Ireland and the UK were committed to working as good, close neighbours in the interests of both communities.
Visitors enjoyed entertainment by Tipperary’s Rigs and Jeels and Galway’s Matthew O’Donnell and his band The Kings of Connaught – five very talented musicians from the West of Ireland.
Shoppers in the Mall were entertained by Tea & Spuds – Luton’s newest Irish party band and dancers from half a dozen Irish dance schools.
This year, the best group entry to the parade went to St Dympna’s Gaelic Football Club and Mrs Brown was the first ever winner of the best individual entry.
Parade goer Marian, who comes from Kildare, said: “It was just lovely to walk behind the Kildare banner. I have people staying but I had to come to this.’’