Irish eyes smile for St Patrick’s Day in Sheffield

Revellers enjoy St Patricks day at the tent on Devonshire Green
Revellers enjoy St Patricks day at the tent on Devonshire Green
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THE pipes will be playing and the Guinness will flow when Sheffield marks St Patrick’s Day this Sunday - with a host of events planned from today to celebrate the city’s Irish community.

Live music, a tea dance, an art exhibition and plenty of friendly get-togethers are set to take place during the Sheffield Irish Association Festival, as well as the usual mass at St Marie’s Cathedral.

For the past four years the festival has included a parade through the city centre - but Dave Oldroyd, from the association, said the procession has been called off this year because of issues with funding, usually provided by the Irish Government.

“We have previously secured funding which has covered the cost of the festivals and parades,” he said.

“We have not secured funding as in past years, we are organising a festival as usual, but due to not securing funding we are unable to organise a parade this year.”

But Mr Oldroyd said there is still plenty on the bill to keep festival-goers happy.

“There will be the tent on Fargate that gets put up every year, we’re having an Irish band playing in there, and there will be a tea dance as well,” he added.

“We’ve got an art exhibition running for the rest of this month, too. There’s lots going on.”

There are believed to be around 50,000 Sheffielders with an Irish parent or grandparent, making up 10 per cent of the city’s population.

The community came to Sheffield in the 19th century, to dig train tunnels through the Peak District and later to work in mining and heavy industry.

Their arrival followed the devastating Irish Potato Famine, when at least a million people starved to death as the potato crop failed, and another million were forced to flee the country.

Sheffield’s developing cutlery and tool industries also attracted people from the Emerald Isle, with many emigrants settling in The Crofts area of Sheffield, dominated by back-to-back housing and centred around Solly Street.

The majority of the Irish citizens in The Crofts were Roman Catholics who worshipped at the then newly-opened St Marie’s church on Norfolk Row, the only Catholic church in Sheffield in the early 1850s.

Sheffield Irish Association was founded in 2007, and represents the Irish community in the city today.

It was set up following the success of other similar groups in cities and large towns around Britain. The organisation also works closely with the Irish Embassy in London, through its Emigrant Support Programme.

* Irish Connections art exhibition, running until March 29 at the Kelham Island Art Co-operative on Ball Street. Admission free. Featured artists include Clare Hughes, Mary Sewell, Bernadette O’Callaghan and Derek Allport.

* Festival tea dance at the Mother of God Church, Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, today from 1pm to 4pm. Live music from Chris O’Malley and Kevin Mullowney, free buffet.

* Sheffield Irish Association Concert - Music in the Irish Tent, Fargate. Tonight, 8.30pm, free admission. Live music from Robin Garside, Ciaran Boyle and Dave Oldroyd.

* Sheffield Irish Spoken Histories Celebration - tales of Irish heritage. Friday, 12.30pm to 3pm, St Vincent’s, Solly Street.

* Festival Irish Mass - Saturday, 12.30pm, St Marie’s Cathedral, Norfolk Row, Sheffield.

* Live music on Devonshire Green - Saturday, 3pm until 11pm, then after-party at The Green Room. Bands include Blue Lip Feel, The Blame, Resonate, Polkadodge, Cold Killer Footsteps, Arkham Karvers, Lateral Vision and Blind Drivers.

* St Patrick’s Day Social at St Vincent’s, Solly Street, Sunday, 8pm. Music by The Shamrocks. Call 0114 272 7360 for tickets.