Our 50th anniversary heritage project has gathered oral histories and stories from across the Irish community and 50 these are part of our touring exhibition, which is free and open to all, as well as online.
The opening week in London's Irish Cultural Centre was a huge success. We have been overwhelmed by the response of visitors. Crowds flocked to visit and many talked afterwards of the deep emotions the exhibition and the voices of the interviewees had generated.
At the launch event on 30 November the Centre was packed for a private view, comedian and TV presenter Dara Ó Briain joined the audience and talked of the changing experiences of the Irish in “such a journey from no blacks no dogs no Irish in the 60s”.
Many of the volunteer oral histories were there, alongside interviewees. Alice Boyle-O'Dowda travelled from Portsmouth, she has taught Irish dancing for over 50 years and she has loaned a dress with a beaded collar that she hand embroidered in 1960s to the exhibition.
Award winning London Irish poet Laurie Bolger read a poem written specially for the project called Home.
Photographers, Joanne O'Brien and Sass Tuffin, who have contributed some key images for the displays also attended.
The exhibition is a fascinating and often moving snapshot of many different aspects of the life in Britain among the Irish community.
Themes include The Journey, Culture, Work and Activism and each includes a series of oral history clips to listen to. A metal grid map of Britain and Ireland stands in the centre of the exhibition and attendees are invited to add a comment with labels we provided that started 'To me, Irishness is...' (Click on 'Gallery' above for some of the messages)
Archive footage and news clips are projected on screens, artefacts include everything from a fiddle, and gig tickets to a ‘More blacks, more dogs, more Irish T shirt’. There is poetry, community activism, the experience of work and the joy of culture.
Heritage Project Manager Susan Cahill said:
“It has been humbling to listen to people’s lives, to share in their experiences... we’ve seen how emigration has represented loss, conflict, trauma, but also freedom, opportunity, and growth, often all at the same time.”
Irish in Britain’s CEO Brian Dalton said:
“This project is a window through which others can see us and understand us. It is inspired by our work with member organisations over the last five decades. We want to acknowledge the stories of resilience, innovation, activism and kinship that we bear witness to everyday.
“The public conversation about migrants, particularly over the past decade, makes this project all the more timely.
“It's a story that belongs to everyone from Ireland that's stepped off a boat, train or plane to Britain, it’s a story that belongs to their children and grandchildren."
Please tell your friends, families, neighbours and networks as we look forward to welcoming you to the exhibitions and as visitors online.
This is the most ambitious heritage project of its kind to have carried out in the Irish community, thanks to generous funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
We also thank individual and business sponsors for their support.
PRIMARY EXHIBITION SPONSOR
Jacqueline O’Donovan OBE – O’Donovan Waste Disposal
Frank O'Hare and Family
John Hayes, Constantine Law
Innisfree Housing Association
Con O'Sullivan of Access International Security Limited
Noel Byrne at Ardent Tide Ltd
Michael Doolin FCIPD, B.Comm, MBS (HR) Clover HR
Labour Party Irish Society
Paul Byrne - Fitzwilliam Sports
The Kerry Association
Seamus MacCormaic – London Irish Centre
Kevin Craig – PLMR
Stan Kaznowski - NBS Underwriting
And our thanks to all those who have sponsored anonymously
The exhibition is open in Liverpool 8-12 November at:
377 Mill Street
The Florrie is located at the heart of Liverpool 8 just one mile out of Liverpool City Centre.
It is accessible via the 204 and 82 bus routes and Brunswick train station.
After Liverpool the exhibition will travel to Leeds and Birmingham.
Full details of the tour dates and venues can be found here.
Irish in Britain has also launched an online exhibition of the project for those who cannot make the get to the cities where it is touring.