Dermot O’Leary honoured to compere show for President

Higgins to be guest of honour at special evening in Royal Albert Hall

Broadcaster Dermot O’Leary has been invited to be master of ceremonies at a cultural evening in the Royal Albert Hall before a 5,000-strong audience on the last evening of the President’s state visit to Britain, the first by an Irish head of state.

Broadcaster Dermot O’Leary has been invited to be master of ceremonies at a cultural evening in the Royal Albert Hall before a 5,000-strong audience on the last evening of the President’s state visit to Britain, the first by an Irish head of state.

Sat, Mar 29, 2014, 01:00

Broadcaster Dermot O’Leary, the son of Irish immigrants from Wexford, is used to being watched by millions on X Factor but a summons from President Michael D Higgins is one of those moments that will linger long in the memory.

O’Leary has been invited to be master of ceremonies at a cultural evening in the Royal Albert Hall before a 5,000-strong audience on the last evening of the President’s state visit to Britain, the first by an Irish head of state.

“It isn’t daunting, but it is a great honour, a huge privilege,” O’Leary told The Irish Times last night.

“I haven’t told my parents yet, but I am doing so this weekend. I know they are going to be very proud.”

The invitations to O’Leary, and the musicians and performers came from the President. People did not need to be asked twice to take part, producer Philip King said yesterday from Dingle, Co Kerry.

He said the invitations had touched “a remarkable, emotional” nerve.

Titled ceiliúradh (celebration), the night will “showcase the strong artistic and creative links that exist between Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as recognising the significant contribution of the Irish community in Britain”.

Special guests
Special guests for the show include Paul Brady, The Gloaming, Glen Hansard and Imelda May, along with actor Fiona Shaw, broadcaster and journalist Olivia O’Leary and author Joseph O’Connor.

The “house band” could fill a hall on its own and includes Liam Bradley, John Carty, Anthony Drennan, Graham Henderson, Dónal Lunny, Mike McGoldrick, Paul Moore, Caitlín Nic Gabhann, Máirtín O’Connor and Brendan Power.

Some of the 5,000 people in the Royal Albert Hall will be guests of the President and the Irish Government.

The vast majority, however, will have paid a £10 to get in – money that will be used to support future Irish cultural events in Britain.

“I had young Irish emigrants come up to me at the airport the other day looking for tickets.

“I think the Irish community in Britain – the new emigrants, the ones born there and the ones who have been there for years – will connect deeply with this,” King said.

The occasion will be streamed live on the internet by RTÉ and broadcast later that night on RTÉ television, while BBC Four will broadcast it on television the following Sunday.

“They have been really interested in it,” King added.

Twenty years ago, King’s television series Bringing it all Back Home won a Grammy in the US.

“We went out into the world to see what had happened with the Irish music which had travelled in the heads of emigrants,” he added yesterday.

“The music found a new life for itself in different countries, such as Britain and elsewhere.

“Not just our music, but out literature, too, in terms of our cultural influence in Britain and the cultural interweaving that has taken place between our two countries,” he said.