Ciara Kenny

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Our parades in… London and Manchester

100,000 people expected to line streets of London for St Patrick’s Day festival on Sunday

Around 100,000 people are expected to turn out at the London St Patrick's Day parade on Sunday, marshalled by Michael Flatley. Photograph: James O'Jenkins

Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 17:48



With an emphasis on green, London is set for a colourful and lively party this Sunday, when the Mayor’s St Patrick’s Day parade and festival take place in central London.

Among many highlights, the world-famous Riverdance will headline the main stage in Trafalgar Square. Also on the bill will be stars of the hit West End shows The Commitments and Once the Musical, plus legendary Irish folk group Kíla, singer-songwriter Mundy; and Daithi Ó’Drónaí, who fuses traditional music and electronica.

International dance star Michael Flatley will join politicians and dignitaries to lead the St Patrick’s Day parade at midday, with people being encouraged to line the route from Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square. Around 90 groups and other participants are involved this year, representing Irish and other community organisations, sports clubs, dance schools, marching bands, and many more. Emergency Exit Arts, one of the UK’s leading participatory arts companies, will also be bringing a five metre tall St Patrick and a striking, five metre tall firebird breathing a fountain of sparks.

Other highlights include the London Irish Comedy Festival Marquee, which will host Eric Lalor, Barry Murphy, Roisin Conaty, Aisling Bea and Jarlath Regan, among others.

An Irish Food Market will feature a wide selection of tempting produce, from Burren Smokehouse salmon and Clonakilty Black Pudding, to Broderick’s Cakes, Irish farmhouse cheeses, traditional breads and luxury confectionary.

The St Patrick’s Day Film Festival at the Prince Charles Cinema near Leicester Square will feature acclaimed Irish films throughout the afternoon, including the multi-award winning short film The Missing Scarf and Oscar winning black comedy, Six Shooter.

New for this year, revellers will also be able to chance to get out their gúnas and dancing shoes and take to the floor at the first St Patrick’s Day Tea Dance, to the sounds of live Irish bands in the splendour of Westminster Cathedral Hall. Like the rest of the festival, the event is free and runs from 2pm – 6pm. There will also be the inaugural St Patrick’s Day Business Lunch at the Charing Cross Hotel, with Irish baritone Gavan Rang performing and Michael Flatley as guest speaker.

The London Irish Centre will be hosting a St Patrick’s Day event on Monday 17th from 5pm, with “live bands, traditional Irish sessions, Irish stew and toasties, GAA on the telly, and general great craic”. Tickets are £10 with part of the proceeds going to support vulnerable Irish people living in London.

Manchester (By Declan McSweeney)

The Manchester Irish Festival currently underway is believed to be one of the largest of its kind in Europe, with the parade taking place on Sunday. Following the Mass in Irish at 9.30am at Irish World Heritage Centre, the parade will line up on Queens Rd and start at 11.30am from the Irish World Heritage Centre ending in Albert Square around 1.30pm.

The parade is very much a community event with participants of all ages. bands, floats and banners representing all the counties of Ireland, the GAA, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Rose of Tralee, dancing schools and many more community organisations. Local pubs and clubs are hosting visits by many Irish musicians.

There has been a long history of Irish migration to greater Manchester – back in the Famine years, the Ancoats area was known as ‘Little Ireland’ and the poverty of its inhabitants attracted the attention of Friedrich Engels. Today, Levenshulme is well-known as the stronghold of the Irish community, with a branch office of Irish Community Care Manchester, whose HQ is near the Irish World Heritage Centre. A striking feature of the city’s Irish community is the dominance of immigrants from Connacht, particularly Mayo and Roscommon.

Birmingham: Since the Birmingham parade began in 1996, it has grown hugely and become a much more multicultural event, embracing other ethnicities which make the city such a diverse place. The parade takes place in Digbeth on Sunday.

Are you attending or hosting any events for St Patrick’s Day across the UK? Tell us about it in the comments section below.