Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was St Patrick’s Day parade. (Even longer and longer ago, there was St Patrick himself, of course – or rather, two St Patricks, but let’s not get into that now). And, unless you were in America, those parades might have had a few lorry floats, a scattering of scouts or guides, and a clown with a balloon. (This is an exaggeration. Plus, sometimes an American marching band enlivened proceedings.)
Somewhere along the way there came some awareness this was a missed opportunity, and we could do much better.
Thus was born, in Dublin way back in 1996, the St Patrick’s Festival. It has grown over nearly 25 years into an ever more elaborate festival, when “Ireland welcomes the world”. These days it’s a four- or five-day multidisciplinary arts festival and civic celebration, with a global audience. Circling around the now very impressive parade is an extensive programme, including other free events. Lots for the citizen and lots for the visitor.
The St Patrick’s Festival has also done the business – and the organisers say they can quantify the economic impact of this “incomparable global expression of Ireland”: a €73 million return to the economy (€22 million of it outside Dublin), representing a 52:1 return on €1.4 million state investment. Some 105,000 people visit from abroad (28 per cent of them return trips).
Big Day Out
Now the festival involves more than 40 events across five days – including a Big Day Out in Merrion Square, this year expanded to a three-day Festival Village with science shows, music, street theatre, food and a céilí mór.
All this is put together by a team, led by CEO Susan Kirby, of six through the year, expanding to 30 or 40 for the final months, and countless thousands’ involvement come festival time. The result is what they call “an enduring, priceless national asset and the largest, most accessible celebration of contemporary Irish culture and rich Irish heritage globally”.
On Tuesday night, as details of this year’s St Patrick’s Festival are announced, Kirby will outline the board’s vision for the future: to expand the five-day festival celebrating our national day into a month-long event. Paddy’s mere Day is no more; let’s call it Paddy’s March (of expansion).
What’s proposed is a countrywide celebration around a theme through the month of March each year. The plan to be unveiled includes: opening and closing ceremonies; themed programmes from the National Cultural Institutions; a week-long festival village; a year-round creative learning and access programme connecting artists and communities; a celebration of Irish culture, food and sport; a bands spectacle in Dublin Castle; Beo (“an awakening of Irish language”); a curated cultural programme across the country inspired by Culture Night; an annual commission; We Are Ireland, an international programme and diplomacy involving agencies such as Culture Ireland, Global Ireland and Tourism Ireland.
There’s also talk of a symposium, EIRU, tendering a “vision for Ireland”, inviting “thinkers, shapers, boundary breakers and diaspora”. And, of course, marketing, along the lines of “Ireland welcomes the world.
Source- The Irish Times .