Gingers gather in Phoenix Park to mark 10th anniversary of red head love

Canadian Derek Fogie set up ‘Kiss a Ginger Day’ in 2009 to raise awareness of bullying

People with red hair, including Aishling Griffiths (7) take a selfie to celebrate ‘Kiss a Ginger Day’ on the 10-year anniversary of this anti-bullying day, in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne

People with red hair, including Aishling Griffiths (7) take a selfie to celebrate ‘Kiss a Ginger Day’ on the 10-year anniversary of this anti-bullying day, in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne

 

When Canadian Derek Fogie first decided to hold a day in honour of red heads 10 years ago he wasn’t aware of the extent of the bullying many people with ginger hair experience. The January 12th anti-bullying holiday he created in 2009 quickly evolved into a day where red heads could share stories of growing up in a minority, he says.

“When I formed this thing it took off so enthusiastically and then I started getting messages from red heads all over the world telling me they felt more included, more connected and less isolated about being in a minority. It’s had more of a positive affect then I every could have envisioned.”

On Saturday, Mr Fogie held the first international event marking the day by calling on red heads in Ireland to gather by the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park in Dublin to celebrate the 10th anniversary of “Kiss a Ginger Day”. Throughout the afternoon adults and children stopped off by the large Kiss a Ginger banner Mr Fogie created after his wife surprised him with an anniversary gift of plane tickets to Dublin.

Mr Fogie, who lives in Toronto, says the idea began as an online movement but has led to numerous “spontaneous” events in places as far apart as Sweden, South Africa and Australia. While he remembers feeling in the minority growing up with red hair in Canada, Mr Fogie says he wasn’t fully aware of the bullying some people experience until he was in his 30s. “I didn’t really get a sense of how bad it was. Then I heard about all these kids that were afraid to go to school, afraid to get up in the morning, getting pushed into lockers. So I actually wanted to do it for them, to show them that it was something worth celebrating.

“One of the reasons why we came here was to show people that we’re all connected; we’re a nice, big, enthusiastic community and we’re celebrating this shade, this rare colour.”

Trish Sullivan from Celbridge brought her granddaughter Aisling to the Phoenix Park meet up on Saturday because “she has been bursting a gut to get here to see other red heads. She feels she’s descended from orangutans so she says ‘I’m going in to see if we can find more orangutans, Nana’.”

Ms Sullivan remembers her paternal grandfather had red hair but says no one in the family has locks quite as vibrant as her 7-year-old granddaughter. Asked if she had ever been treated badly for having ginger hair, Aisling shook her head. “I have three more friends with red hair,” she explains proudly. “Two are girls and one is a boy. I just really like having red hair.”