BY Gerard Gough | March 2 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


The pipes are calling this St Patrick’s Day

GERARD GOUGH discovers that the feast day celebrations in Coatbridge, and Glasgow, both have a strong musical focus

ONE word that is synonymous with St Patrick’s Day festivities the world over is ‘celebration.’ Not only is it a time to celebrate one of the Church’s most cherished saints, but is also a chance for the Irish diaspora to gather together and celebrate its culture and heritage.

While St Patrick’s Day Masses will be celebrated the length and breadth of the country, notably in Edinburgh by Cardinal Keith O’Brien and in Glasgow by Archbishop Mario Conti, for the past nine years Coatbridge has proved to be the celebratory focal point for many of the Irish in Scotland thanks to its ten-day St Patrick’s Festival that was last year named as one of the top ten best ways to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in the world by online travel guide Trip Advisor.

The festival in Coatbridge was set up in 2003 so that local people could celebrate the feast day and the significant Irish influence and heritage that pervades the town and has done since the mid-19th century. The pinnacle of the ten-day celebration is the massive street party on the Saturday closest to St Patrick’s Day in the town centre. The festival received recognition from former Irish President Mary McAleese and, in 2010, a motion was passed in the Scottish Parliament recognising the role the festival plays both within and out with the local community.

This year’s extensive programme preceding the main Saturday celebration includes a variety of cultural events including, music, dance, theatre, lectures, exhibitions and sport, with George Galloway the campaigning politician and former MP, taking centre stage as the guest of honour for the street party on Saturday March 17.

Two particular events stand out among this year’s programme of events. A new musical play entitled Me and Ma Gal, based on a novel by author Des Dillon and featuring music from former Silencers’ guitarist JJ Gilmour. The collaboration between the two Coatbridge natives sees two of Scotland’s most significant contemporary literary and musical talents showcase the play on Sunday March 4 at St Andrew’s High School at 7.30pm in an evening that is not to be missed.

There is also an historic first for the Coatbridge festival with the showing of the recently broadcast RTE documentary, A Woman of Calibre. It tells the story of the remarkable Coatbridge-born feminist and revolutionary, Margaret Skinnider, who was the only female to be injured during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

Among the ever-present festival features are the Irish Quiz, Gaelic Football, a youth soccer tournament and the ever popular Family Ceili with music provided by the St Patrick’s Coatbridge Comhaltas group.

There will also be a community exhibition at the Summerlee Heritage Park and a Celtic Graves event to dedicate and bless the grave of Michael Dolan, Celtic FC’s first ever goalkeeper at Old Monkland Cemetery in Coatbridge on Sunday March 18th at 10.45am.

For the first time ever this year, the St Patrick’s Day celebrations will also be enjoyed in the heart of Glasgow, building on the success of previous years’ community-based St Patrick’s Day celebrations in other parts of the city.

Supported by the Irish Government’s Immigrant Support Programme and Culture Ireland, Glasgow’s St Patrick’s Festival committee has teamed up to stage nine days of entertainment.

One of the highlights of the festival bill will be a performance by Manchester-Irish flute, whistle and uilleann pipes legend Michael McGoldrick, who toured last year with Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan. Other headline acts include award-winning local singer Maeve Mackinnon, popular Glasgow folk’n’rollers The Wakes, and Scottish multicultural ambassadors the Zuba Bassa Beat Band. In a further coup for the festival, it also features the debut Scottish performance by hotly-tipped Dublin balladeer, guitarist, bouzouki and banjo ace Daoiri Farrell, with Niall Keegan on flute and Robbie Walsh on bodhran.

One of the main aims of the festival is to showcase the grassroots vibrancy of Glasgow’s music scene, with this year’s line-up also including such home-grown rising stars as Danny Kyle Open Stage winners Yuptae and Anarkali, song-based folk/rock quintet The Amadans, and guest singer Paul McKenna with the same young ensemble from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann who recently performed to rapturous applause at the Celtic Connections festival. The Gaels le Cheile night on March 11, will also be a musical celebration of Scottish and Irish Gaelic culture, co-hosted by Conradh na Gaelilge and An Lochran headlined by the superb Maeve Mackinnon.

With a choice of concerts, comedy nights and film screenings from March 9-16, plus a dinner-dance with the double bill of contemporary swingers Life and Soul and ceili stalwarts Inishowen Ceili Band, festivities naturally climax on St Patrick’s Day itself, with a free Family Day in Merchant Square, featuring live music, dance displays, music workshops, face-painting and other children’s entertainment.

“We felt that the festival was ready to step up another level, in terms of bringing in more established artists and increasing its audience reach, not just as a tokenistic gesture but by coupling local bands in these settings confidence and opportunity are the results we hope for: we hope that the programme appeals to people of all ages, and people from outside as well as inside the Glasgow Irish community,” Danny Boyle, the festival chairman said. “We also wanted to broaden it out in terms of recognising our active citizenship, as well as our Irish heritage, with all the diversity that encompasses—and the Glasgow grassroots music scene, which feeds so much into the wider entwined Irish / Scottish scene, is just such a great expression of that.”

With St Patrick’s Day celebrations growing in both Coatbridge and Glasgow, there is a fantastic opportunity for some great ‘craic’ to be enjoyed by everyone.

—For more information on both festivals and the events visit:


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