A black and white issue, but Arthur’s Day continues to produce a stout performance

Relaxed atmosphere as music fans enjoy the surprise acts

  Bobby Womack performs  live in the Dakota Bar on South William Street, Dublin.   Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Bobby Womack performs live in the Dakota Bar on South William Street, Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien


If those who took to Dublin’s pubs last night were perturbed by the bad publicity which this year’s Arthur’s Day attracted then they certainly weren’t showing it.

There was a relaxed atmosphere among the music fans attending some of the headline acts, the pubs packed with audiences who again embraced the long-held tradition (which started way back in 2009) which sees a Thursday in late-September designated as Arthur’s Day.

By 10pm the streets outside many Dublin city centre pubs were busy with Arthur’s Day revellers. Although there were there were those who were clearly under the influence, at that hour at least, things appeared calm.

Its detractors see the event as a cynical marketing campaign, a form of cultural misappropriation and worse, an event which perpetuates and promotes drinking in a country which ill-needs it (although this year events will be held in 55 countries according to promoters).

Its proponents present it as a celebration of the pub and the music of Irish and international acts.

It’s no St Patrick’s Day – at 4pm yesterday the capital’s streets resembled a normal Dublin day and the only leprechaun hat in sight was perched on the head of an American tourist outside the Guinness Storehouse.

This year events were held in 500 venues in all 32 counties with the lure of big-name artists such as Emili Sandé, the Script and Biffy Clyro appearing at venues in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Belfast (although the where and the when was not revealed until the last minute).

And so, at 6.30pm the crowd in the Dakota Bar in Dublin City Centre found themselves swaying happily to Bobby Womack, among them Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, who was cradling a pint of the black stuff.

Ed Keeling from Booterstown (who was not drinking Guinness), like many people who attended the gig, said he had come for the music.

“I think it’s a marketing event, it’s not a scam. Everyone knows what they’re doing, everyone knows what they’re getting into. I think it has such positive effects . . . in that it promotes Irish music and gives something back to Irish people who are struggling a lot.”

“I don’t think this is the cause of people’s drinking problems,” he added.

He said a change in Irish drinking culture required improved education.

Tom Conroy from Roscommon said Arthur’s Day had “taken a lot of bad press this year more than other years”.

“You don’t have to pay to hear some of your favourite bands or musicians, it’s good in that respect. You don’t have to drink, no one’s forcing you to drink.”

Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power struck a different note in the Seanad. Noting reports that Diageo planned to “contribute” towards the costs of extra policing for Arthur’s Day, she said: “While this is welcome, I strongly believe that Diageo should cover the full cost of all of the extra gardaí that are being drafted in tonight to police Arthur’s Day events . . . I am calling on them to do the right thing and confirm this will be the case.”

In a statement, Diageo said last night that “ as with large scale music events we work closely with An Garda Siochana and provide a contribution”.

The statement said t it had cooperated closely “with local authorities and other public authorities”.