Ten jam-packed days of festivities are once more set for mid-October with Merseyside firing up its annual celebration of its Irish connections, as Getintothis’ David Hall reports.
This year marking a century since the Easter Rising of 1916, a particular resonance hovers around Liverpool Irish Festival more than ever.
With a longstanding vision to bring Liverpool and Ireland together, organisers have cited this year’s festival focus as conviviality. Running October 13-23, the Irish Festival presents an opportunity to explore contemporary and traditional elements of Irish culture. The festival explores what being Irish means at home and abroad, both now and throughout the rich Irish heritage on Merseyside as well as around the world.
Liverpool Irish Festival returns with a programme of culture, performance, film, talks and both traditional and modern music. With plenty of events on offer for families including a full day of events and activities at the Museum of Liverpool Life, the festival caters to all age ranges.
An extensive programme of free events will also run throughout the festival’s ten days, taking place in venues throughout Liverpool’s city centre.
Exhibitions in particular strongly tie in with the centenary of the Easter Rising, with both the Bagelry and Liverpool Central Library hosting exhibitions commemorating the event. Liverpool and the Easter Rising comprises artefacts and family documents and photographs, seeing its launch at 2pm on Friday, October 14 at Liverpool Central Library‘s Third Floor with speeches from its curators. It opens its doors October 14 to November 18 at library opening hours and admission is free to the launch and throughout its run.
One of the centrepiece productions of the festival is set to be Scadàn, a new production written and directed by three emerging Liverpool Irish artists and staged at the Invisible Wind Factory on October 18 and 19.
Derry-born adopted scousers Lauren O’Hara and Connor Kelly wrote the production, with direction from Co. Donegal’s Roisin Fletcher. Scadàn touches upon subject matters of revolution, suffragettes and Irish politics set in the backdrop of a women’s commune in 1914. The production will encompass live music, imagery and Celtic tales to create an immersive and mesmeric performance.
Music has been composed by sound designer and Hope Street Limited musical director Luke Thomas, whose immersive art installations have previously been featured at Liverpool Light Night.
Exploring themes of the undead, mysticism and myth is, Three Plays: Riders to the Sea, The Shadow of the Glen and Purgatory at the World Museum‘s unique Treasure House Theatre. Alsop Drama take three one act performances by playwrights such as William Butler Yeats to consider rural Irish life in the early twentieth century, and how superstition and folklore influenced relationships with the spirits, the living and past. Liverpool Lambs retells the little-known story of roles played in the Uprising by Liverpool men and women.
Also marking the centenary of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as Young Man in 2016, a panel of academics will discuss the significance and legacy of Joyce’s debut novel at the University of Liverpool‘s Eleanor Rathbone Theatre on Thursday, October 13. Other talks on offer include The Gaelic League and the Easter Rising on Monday, October 17, a lecture by Gaelic League Secretary Tony Birthill, exploring Liverpool’s import to Irish cultural revival and revolution.
Highlights for the Irish Festival’s musical programme are also dotted throughout the festival’s ten days. Singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey hails from Dublin’s North Side and offers a unique performance of his album No Force on Earth on October 23, which commemorates the Easter Rising.
As well as a family ceílí taking place at the Bluecoat on Sunday, October 20, a ‘psycho ceílí’ comes from The Logues‘ electric live performance at St Michaels Irish Centre on October 23, contrasting the fiery and exciting Rackhouse Pilfer who bring their blend of rootsy Americana and folk to the same venue on October 21.
We Banjo 3 return to Merseyside for the first time since storming the 2014 Irish Festival with their modern take on Irish old-time bluegrass at the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room on Friday, October 14.
“Irish culture is lively and friendly and chimes with our Liverpool-ness, yet this year’s referendum demonstrated a seismic social shift that we must consider – and reconsider – when we think about Irish culture, what it means to be Irish, and what it means here in Liverpool,” says festival leader Emma Smith, “The Easter Rising centenary reflects on stories of Liverpool people who stated a claim for their Irish-ness, at times risking everything. Post-Brexit we are witnessing many British people clamouring to reinstate their Irish citizenship and retain EU nationality”.
Full programme listings are available at the Liverpool Irish Festival website.