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With a theme of ‘exchange’ the Festival invites artists from across the island of Ireland to talk about Irish creativity, culture and community, through music, theatre, performance, tours and more. Exploring Liverpool’s Irish history and community, the Festival also hosts talks, tours and special events to celebrate the rich Celtic heritage of the city.
Now in its nineteenth year, Liverpool Irish Festival was founded to bring Liverpool and Ireland closer through arts and culture. With live events, as well as a digital programme, the Festival welcomes back audiences to physical venues.
Colm Keegan & Laura Durrant LIVE, 8pm, Mon 25 Oct. Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room. £18/£15
Colm Keegan and Laura Durrant are international stars, running Scots-Irish castle tours and large music tours of the USA, alongside educational careers. Multi award-winning Irish singer and musician Colm Keegan is best known as one of the principal singers in PBS’s sensation show: Celtic Thunder, which led to him meeting his soon-to-be musical partner and wife, Glaswegian cellist Laura Durrant, also a member.
The Curious Disappearance of Mr Foo, 6pm-7.30pm, Fri 22 Oct. Online. Free
In 1945-6, hundreds of Liverpool’s Chinese seamen were ’rounded-up’ and forcibly deported to China, Singapore or other locations. Prior to their forced ‘repatriation’, many of these men met and married English and Irish women; creating Chinese-English and Chinese-Irish communities; a legacy that continues today.
What of those left behind? Of the men severed from their families and homes? Where did they end up and how did it affect the communities involved? This play, originally opened in 2014 at Unity Theatre by The Sound Agents, is based on verbatim accounts from members of the community affected. Original players Tina Malone and Simon Wan, create an online version of the piece, especially for Liverpool Irish Festival.
Irish Myth and Legend, visual exhibition at The Reader, Calderstones Park, Free
Storyteller and artist Nuala Monaghan has been commissioned by Gael Linn and An tUltach, partnered with Liverpool Irish Festival, to create a new work telling five key stories from Irish myth and legend. Revealing the connections folklore has with the modern world, the exhibition takes place close to the Calder Stones, six megaliths whose carvings are seen on monuments around the Irish Sea.
The Esteemed Dr Barry ,6pm and 8pm, 28 & 29 October, Liverpool Medical Institute. £10/£8 conc
Liverpool playwright and author Carol Maginn now presents the story of another Irish migrant who confronted and overcame the many hurdles of early 19th Century society. This play tracks the journey of Dr Barry from poverty in Cork to family in London, study in Edinburgh, and then a tumultuous and prestigious career in the British army, bucking societal pressures at every turn. This is a modern retelling of the life of a powerful historic pioneer.
Lessons of War: Matt McGinn, 8pm, Sat 23 Oct. Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room. £18/£15
Matt McGinn is a seasoned Irish musician with a number of albums under his belt. Having grown up during The Troubles, music was a way for Matt to engage in expression and find peace. He wondered if he could create peace through music and, working with artists in war torn environments, created Lessons of War.
Having explored his beautiful documentary of the same name at #LIF2020, we hear the music -live- along with stories of his experience making the album and the opportunities that can be found in sharing, collaborating and putting a little generosity out in the world.
Cocoons: on tour, 6pm, Sun 24 Oct. Grand Central Hall. £12/£10 conc
Following on from his solo show (at the Phil’s Music Room on Sat 23 Oct), Matt picks up his other hat to host Cocoons, a weekly podcast in which he is joined by incredible artists from around the world. Together they explore stories and songs, exchanging memories and sharing (musical) notes.
Cocoons was first curated by Irish artists Matt McGinn and Cormac Neeson, at the beginning of the original lockdowns (March 2020). Since then, it has supported performances from hundreds of incredible artists (Brian Kennedy, Mary Coughlan, Duke Special and JC Stewart, to name just four) and raised over £12,000 for charities hardest-hit by the pandemic. Guesting will be BLÁNID, a Northern Irish Devonian, with a voice that’s been compared to Kate Bush, Sinéad O’Connor and Joni Mitchell, along with KingFast, a young Liverpool-based, Kingston-born, Belfast-raised singer-songwriter.
The Festival hosts a series of walking tours exploring and discovering Liverpool’s rich Irish history and heritage. This year, the programme expands. Booking is essential for each walking tour.
Liverbird Safari Walking Tour (22 October £12/£10) and children, booking is essential. Join ArtsGroupie for a lively, fun two-hour walking tour ‘safari’ around the City Centre. The walk starts at Bluecoat, taking participants on a Liver Bird-spotting mission, learning about the history of Liverpool along the way.
Scotland Road Walk (23 October £10/£7) This 2 hour walk through the former heartland of Liverpool’s Irish community, will look at schools, statues and graveyards to explore what is left of the area’s rich heritage, rousing some old ghosts along the way.
South Liverpool Walk (23 October £10/£7) On this 2 hour walk you will discover the Irish connection to many of the historic buildings in the Hope Street and Rodney Street areas, and hear from some of the colourful characters who populated them.
Pride of Sefton Dock Tours (30 October, Free) Taking in Liverpool’s waterfront in the way many migrants will have over centuries, this tour tells much about the formation of Liverpool’s waterways and those who had a hand in the developments.
Irish Heritage Walk (30 October, £10/£7) Familiar streets and buildings yield up their stories in this fascinating walking tour of the area around the Bluecoat and city centre, where there are links to not only Liverpool’s Irish community, but also to the Italian community, and aspects of Liverpool’s radical history.
With the last weekend of the Festival taking place at Halloween, this year at Liverpool Irish Centre explore the Irish tradition of Samhain. Comhaltas and the Armagh Rhymers take it in turns to play fun (spooky) games and music, to dance and play along with, whilst the veil between our world and ‘the Other’ is at its thinnest. At The Reader, The Gods of Old; a Samhain (Hallowe’en) Storytelling lets families join a session of Hallowe’en stories.
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