From London to Warsaw to Washington this weekend, events will be held around the world celebrating the talent and creativity of Irish women, to mark St Brigid's Day.
What started as an Irish community event at the Embassy in London last year has grown into an international festival, spanning six countries in Europe and five states in the US over five days.
February 1st honours St Brigid, the fifth-century nun from Co Kildare reputed to have performed miracles and healed the sick. The legend of Brigid stretches back to pre-Christian mythology, when she - as daughter of the chief of the gods, - was a goddess herself, associated with poets, healers, childbirth and inspiration. Originally a pagan festival, St Brigid's feast day on February 1st marks the beginning of spring.
The Department of Foreign Affairs chose St Brigid’s Day to showcase women in the Irish diaspora, and build a programme of international events offering an alternative celebration of Irishness to St Patrick’s Day, according to a spokeswoman.
The packed programme of St Brigid's Day events in London (see www.dfa.ie/st-brigids-day-London for the full list) kicks off on Thursday evening with the opening of an exhibition of women's art at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, featuring the works of painters Margaret Egan, Deirdre Walsh, Hetty Lawlor and Julie Cusack, and sculpture by Orla de Brí and Ana Duncan.
The main event will be hosted by the Embassy in London on Friday evening, with talks, performances and panel discussions showcasing “trailblazing Irish women who are making their mark in diverse fields such as music, comedy, poetry, literature, theatre, business and entrepreneurship, and politics”.
Among the participants will be Áine Lawlor, Róisín Ingle, Amy Huberman, Denise Gough, Liz Nugent, Senator Lynn Ruane, Belinda McKeon and Marie and Catherine Heaney, with music from Loah, Daire Halpin and Tara O'Grady.
The London Irish Centre will host a series of workshops for all ages on Friday, including St Brigid's Cross making, Irish bread making, and singing circles. On Saturday the LIC will throw an all-female trad session on Saturday at 5pm, followed by an evening of live entertainment hosted by Angela Scalon, whose guests include Tara Flynn, Lisa Lambe and Gemma Hayes.
The UK premiere of Katie, the Katie Taylor documentary film, will be shown on Sunday, following a panel discussion about Irish women in film and television, while a surprise celebrity chef will cook for guests at a Bord Bia sponsored "St Brigid's supper" at Selfridges.
Epic, the Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin, is taking its 'Blazing a Trail' exhibition on the road, with satellite exhibitions showcasing female Irish emigrants who influenced the world at the Irish Embassies in Brussels and Strasbourg, the United Nations in New York, and the Irish Consulate in Austin. The Brussels exhibition will open with a panel discussion on Thursday evening, featuring Eilís Ní Dhuibhne, Martina Devlin and Antonia Hart.
A whole host of young Irish women writers will take part in a series of readings, panel discussions and seminars at the Embassy in Berlin on Thursday and Friday, including Eimear McBride, Lisa McInerney, Julia Kelly, Louise O'Neill, Sara Baume and Audrey McGee.
Poet Moya Cannon will read in Warsaw on Thursday evening, with a performance from harpist Kathleen Loughnane, while in Lisbon, an event at the Embassy will celebrate Irish-Portuguese ties in business, science, culture and academia.
Trinity Dance will perform at a reception at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, while in Washington, Frances Fitzgerald and Joan Burton will speak at a "women in politics" reception at Georgetown University next Thursday, February 7th. More events are planned for the coming weeks and months in other consulates across the US on Irish women in academia, culture, business and human rights.
The St Brigid’s Day events are funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Emigrant Support Programme, which provides around €12 million to support diaspora events and Irish community organisations worldwide each year.
The new festival is part of the Irish Government's effort to develop Ireland's reputation on the world stage through culture, under the Global Ireland 2025 programme announced in 2018.
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