West of England celebrates the Irish diaspora

The West of England, and Bristol in particular, is home to many thousands of Irish immigrants. Many who came here in the post-war era – who built our roads and staffed our hospitals – are quietly living out their lives, but do not enjoy a real sense of Irish identity or community. These immigrants could not wear their identity with pride, as they were demeaned and subjugated by the ‘No blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ attitude that welcomed them. Subsequent waves of immigrants, who came in the time of the ‘Troubles’, worried that they were tainted with a terrorist connection and, therefore, did not highlight their nationality or heritage.

It is only with the most recent wave of immigrants – post Irish boy-bands, Riverdance and Ryanair weekends to Temple Bar in Dublin! – that we Irish feel safe and proud to shout out about our culture and heritage. This festival will provide an opportunity to those Irish who have served the City and the region, to share their culture with pride.

When Dublin’s St Patrick’s Day parade was cancelled due to Covid, Dublin City Council announced that it lost £73 million in income. While the W.E. IRISH Culture Fest is a lot smaller in its ambition for 2023, there is no reason why it cannot bring in a ‘crock o’ gold’ for the West of England region. A festival in March is just the boost that the economy needs.

In a time when many artists are still struggling post-Covid, we aim to offer work to Fringe performers and to artists to create floats and costumes for the Parade. Our aim for 2023 is to have 10,000 attend the Parade and a full programme of Fringe events every night of the festival.

A focus of this festival will be to bring together people of Irish/black dual-heritage. There are many similarities and cross-overs which have never had the opportunity to be revealed. The festival will also present opportunities for the Irish diaspora to share their experiences with more recent immigrants facing a hostile environment.