Irish History Month 2021 took place in vastly different circumstances this year due to the pandemic. With the continuation of restrictions on social gatherings and musical performances, our activity during the month was online.
Irish History Month this year provided the platform for the launch of our Arts Council England supported research and presentation, 'Exploring the Musical Traditions of County Leitrim & County Fermanagh.' The project also includes stories from the North Leitrim Leeds-Irish diaspora.
Throughout the month, 'The Leeds Irish Music Programme' continued Tuesday evenings at 6:30pm on East Leeds FM.
In addition to exploring different traditional Irish music historical regional influences and themes, the four programmes during Irish History Month caught up with local Irish organisations Leeds CCE (Irish Musicians Association), Leeds Irish Health & Homes, The Leeds St Patrick's Day Parade and Leeds Irish Centre.
A specially commissioned concert, filmed on location at Otley Courthouse featuring the celebrated virtuoso partnership, Máire Ní Chathasaigh (Harp) & Chris Newman (Guitar), was streamed on Friday 26th March. This event was presented in collaboration with Irish Music & Dance London (IDML), as part of the 2021 Digital Concert Series with support from the Irish Embassy in London - 'Creative Communities Initiative'
Assistance was provided by IAF CEO as joint musical director in an anthology project publication, ‘Corona Ceoil' (Music In A Time Of Corona') undertaken by Leeds Irish Health & Homes and renowned second-generation London born Leeds based poet Ian Duhig. who launched the project during Irish History Month and as on online event during Leeds Literature Festival.
For information regarding previous Irish History Month projects.
An afternoon of traditional Irish music hosted by local musicians took place at Castleton Mill in Armley on the afternoon of Sunday 6th March. The location, a beautifully restored Grade 2 listed former textile mill on the banks of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, provides local historical significance for the first event of this years’ Irish History Month in Leeds. Many Irish immigrants passed through or settled in Leeds during and after the Great Hunger 1845-1852 (also referred to as ‘The Irish Famine’) and were heavily employed in the local textile industry. The term 'Navvies' came from a shortening of 'Navigator', a job title for those that dug out the numerous canal systems of the 18th & 19th Century. The Irish Navvies were manual labourers working on civil engineering projects such as the Leeds Liverpool Canal that propelled the Victorian industrial revolution.
On Wednesday 9th March at Seacroft Community Hub, in collaboration with Leeds Libraries, Irish Arts Foundation Director, Des Hurley, chaired a discussion and presentation, ‘Untold Stories: The Leeds Irish Community.’ Untold Stories is a community archive project undertaken by the Irish Arts Foundation. Initially funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project looks at the experiences of the emigrant Irish community in Leeds in the second half of the twentieth century, particularly their settlement patterns and cultural traditions such as music, dance, song, and sport.
On Saturday 12th March at Chapel FM Arts Centre in East Leeds our new project, 'Exploring the Musical Traditions of County Cork & County Kerry', was officially launched. Supported by Arts Council England, this nine-month social history project will explore the musical traditions of County Cork and County Kerry in the south-west of Ireland, in particular the music of the ‘Sliabh Luachra’ area. The project will also include stories from the Cork and Kerry-Leeds Irish diaspora. ‘Sliabh Luachra’ (pronounced Sleeve Loucra) is the mountainous region along the Cork/Kerry border in the province of Munster straddling the county boundaries of Cork and Kerry. The name ‘Sliabh Luachra’ means "a mountain of rushes".
An afternoon of traditional Irish music hosted by local musicians took place at The Terminus, The Junction, and Alfred’s in Meanwood on the afternoon of Sunday 13th March.
To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March, The Leeds Irish Music Programmes on 22nd February and 22nd March included conversations with members of the Leeds-Irish community recalling memories of their arrival and experiences in their adopted city. Broadcast online on East Leeds FM, all shows are available online.
‘1922 - Traditional Music and the Inception of the Irish Free State’. At Kirkstall Abbey Visitor Centre on Tuesday 29th March, in collaboration with Leeds Museums & Galleries and as part of the ‘1152 Club: talks at Kirkstall Abbey’ project, Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Leeds, David Cooper and musicians from the Irish Arts Foundation explored some of the themes and issues in Irish traditional music and song in the light of events that took place in Ireland a century ago - the War of Independence, the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the formation of the Irish Free State and the ensuing Civil War. As well as sketching out the political background to the events, the talk considered how music was performed and adapted for broader ideological and cultural purposes
Throughout the month an Irish educational and cultural exhibition, ‘Timeline,’ could be viewed at Armley Library & Community Hub.
The twenty-first Leeds St Patrick’s Day Parade took place in Leeds City Centre on Sunday 13th March, leaving Millennium Square at 10.30am.
A morning of traditional Irish music hosted by local singers and musicians took place at Richmond Hill Community Centre in East Leeds on the morning of Thursday 2 nd March. The area of Richmond Hill, historically known as ‘The Bank’, was the first area of settlement for the Leeds Irish community who arrived in the city during the Irish famine between 1845 and 1849.
‘Charles Owen O’Conor, ‘The O’Conor Don.’ Landlordism, Liberal Catholicism and Unionism in Nineteenth-Century Ireland’. At Kirkstall Abbey Visitor Centre on Tuesday 7 th March, in collaboration with Leeds Beckett University and Leeds Museums & Galleries and as part of the ‘1152 Club: talks at Kirkstall Abbey’ series, Associate Researcher and Lecturer in History at Leeds Beckett University, Dr Aidan Enright uncovered the world of Charles Owen O’Conor, ‘The O‘Conor Don’ (1838–1906), one of the most prominent Catholic landlords and Liberal MPs of his generation.
At Headingley Farmers Market on the morning of Saturday 11 th March dancers from the Helen Rowland Academy of Irish Dancing performed.
In collaboration with Film at HEART, on Tuesday 14th March at Headingley Enterprise & Arts Centre, ‘The Quiet Girl’ was screened: set in 1981 rural Ireland, a withdrawn nine-year-old girl, Cáit (Catherine Clinch), experiences a loving home for the first time when she spends the summer on a farm with distant relatives in County Waterford, Cáit blossoms in their care, but in this house where there are meant to be no secrets, she discovers one painful truth. Based on the renowned story Foster by Claire Keegan. ‘The Quiet Girl’ received 11 nominations at the Irish Film & Television Awards (IFTAs) in March 2022 and won in seven categories. Written and directed by Colm Bairéad, the film was the first Irish-language film to showcase at the Berlin Film Festival and win the Best Film award at IFTAs.
An early evening of traditional Irish music- ‘Rush Hour Trad’- hosted by local musicians took place at The Terminus in Meanwood on Friday 24 th March.
‘Exploring the Musical Crossover between Ireland, Yorkshire and Lancashire.’ In collaboration with Leeds Museums & Galleries. The North of England has a long history of instrumental folk music that was heavily influenced by the music of Ireland and the powerful rhythms of the weaving mills of Yorkshire and Lancashire. Many Irish immigrants passed through or settled in Leeds during and after the Great Hunger 1845-1852 (also referred to as ‘The Irish Famine’) and were heavily employed in the local textile industry. Three northern musicians, fiddle players Mikey Kenney and Owen Spafford with Stuart Graham on Bouzouki, performed and discussed the influences and music of Yorkshire and Lancashire following completion of research that was supported by Arts Council England. The event took place on the morning of Friday 31 st March at Armley Mills Industrial Museum in Leeds: ticket numbers will be limited and included free entry to the museum.
Throughout the month an Irish educational and cultural exhibition, ‘Timeline,’ could be viewed Chapel FM Arts Centre in Seacroft.
Organised by the Leeds St Patrick’s Day Committee, the Leeds St Patrick’s Day Parade took place in Leeds City Centre on Sunday 12th March, leaving Millennium Square at 10.30am.
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To begin the month-long celebration, an early evening of traditional Irish music - ‘Rush Hour Trad’- hosted by local musicians takes place at The Terminus in Meanwood on Friday 1st March.
To coincide with International Women’s Day on 8th March, Irish Arts Foundation and Northlight Arts in Potternewton are delighted to host ‘PEACE HEROINES,’ a vibrant and celebratory exhibition of work by contemporary County Sligo artist FRIZ. These portraits mark the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA25) are on loan from the Irish Embassy in London. The exhibition will launch on Friday the 8th March with a short event followed by an informal traditional Irish music evening hosted by local musicians and singers. This is a free event with limited capacity at the venue – please email email@example.com to reserve a place. The exhibition will run from the 9th March until 21st March Thurs, Fri, Sat 10am-4pm.
During Irish History Month, Hyde Park Picture House will be screening a curated programme of Irish films.
At Headingley Farmers Market on the morning of Saturday 9th March musicians and singers from Irish Arts Foundation will be performing.
In the afternoon on Saturday 9th March, ‘Hebble’ will be performing at Seven Arts on Harrogate Road in Chapel Allerton in collaboration with MEWL Music. These experienced performers hail from the West of Ireland and both sides of the Pennines and will perform original material inspired by local history and landscape of the South Pennines.
On Monday 11th March Leeds University Union Irish Dance Society are hosting a fundraising Ceilidh for Leeds Irish Health & Homes, the charity partner of the Leeds University Union Irish Dance Society. A Ceilidh is great fun, good exercise, and a fantastic way to meet new people. The evening features a caller to show you the moves and the Ceilidh band to dance along to.
On Friday 15th March at Chapel FM Arts Centre in Seacroft, ‘Untold Stories: The Leeds Irish Community.’ This event features a verbal presentation using the Untold Stories website and documentary as well as live traditional Irish music. Untold Stories is a community archive project undertaken by the Irish Arts Foundation. Initially funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project looks at the experiences of the emigrant Irish community in Leeds in the second half of the twentieth century, particularly their settlement patterns and cultural traditions such as music, dance, song, and sport.
Organised by the Leeds St Patrick’s Day Committee, the Leeds St Patrick’s Day Parade will take place in Leeds City Centre on Sunday 17th March, leaving Millennium Square at 10.30am. The previous Sunday, 10th March, sees the neighbouring Huddersfield St. Patrick’s Day Parade starting at 1pm at the Open Market.
A morning of traditional Irish music hosted by local singers and musicians takes place at Richmond Hill Community Centre in East Leeds on the morning of Thursday 21st March. The area of Richmond Hill, historically known as ‘The Bank’, was the first area of settlement for the Leeds Irish community who arrived in the city during the Irish famine between 1845 and 1849.
In collaboration with Leeds Museums & Galleries, ‘Irish Nurses in the NHS’ takes place at Abbey House Museum on Friday 22nd March. This event is part of the ‘1152 Club’ series of talks at Kirkstall Abbey. Professor Louise Ryan, a leading scholar on migration from London Metropolitan University, tells stories of Irish Nurses in the NHS through her research.
On Saturday 23rd March, ‘The Sweet Sorrows’ play at Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton in collaboration with MEWL Music. Based in Co. Wexford, Ireland, ‘The Sweet Sorrows’ globally tour their acoustic/folk/Americana music delighting audiences with their humour and vocal harmonies.
Throughout the month Irish Arts Foundation will be continuing our ongoing work with schools and community groups across Leeds and our Irish educational and cultural exhibition, ‘Timeline,’ can be viewed during March at Seacroft Library and Community Hub.
For further information about Irish History Month events please visit: our Irish History Month events page
We would like to offer our sincerest gratitude to all our funders, sponsors, and supporters for making the work of the Irish Arts Foundation possible.