Thursday, 10 April 2014

First Irish State Visit as First Bricks are Laid Onsite

This week marks a most momentous occasion for Ireland, and a proud moment to be Irish in Britain with a four-day state visit by our president Michael D. Higgins, the first ever by an Irish head of state. Symbolically coinciding with this visit, construction of the new Irish Cultural Centre in London has begun.

President Michael D. Higgins in first Irish State Visit

President Michael D. Higgins, poet, writer and previously Irish Minister for Arts and Culture has spoken about “the emancipatory power of culture for laying the foundations of peace in a world undergoing profound change”. In his speech at the Royal Banquet at Windsor Castle this week he largely focused on “the deep and indelible links that bind us together in cultural and social terms”.

Similarly, in the presence of some of Ireland’s most distinguished UK based Irish cultural legends, Queen Elizabeth described Britain as being “hugely enriched by the Irish Emigrants living here”. Her comment that it took a man of Irish heritage (Danny Boyle) to convince her to make popular culture history by jumped from a helicopter at the launch of the London Olympic Games in 2012 spurred great applause.

Michael D. Higgins has long been an avid supporter of the work of the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, and in fact was the first to issue a statement expressing his displeasure at the news that the building could be lost due to financial pressures by local council back in 2011. He highlighted the importance of saving this London based Irish asset for the people of Ireland both at home and settled in Britain, complimenting the groundbreaking and vibrant programmes of Irish music, dance, art, film and theatre at the ICC.

And so, it is a wonderfully significant time for us to be experiencing both this week’s Anglo-Irish will for creative cooperation and cultural focus, at the same time as the foundations for our new building are being laid in London.

From this week onwards, the new home for Irish Arts and Culture in London will begin to rise from the dust, as a beacon for the Irish in Britain

Due for completion in the summer of 2015 it will feature state of the art facilities for the education, presentation and promotion of Irish creative talent in the UK and become a home for Irish emigrants both the long established, and the newly arrived (or as they are becoming known: the “just off the Rail & Sail”).

Irish Cultural Centre's new reception and cafe/bar area

This Thursday, Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhall and his wife Greta will host a live concert curated by legendary musician Philip King, featuring an enormous celebration of Irish music, dance and spoken word, as a gift to the president. The concert at the Royal Albert Hall, entitled Ceiliúradh (Celebration) will feature some of Ireland’s best traditional and contemporary musicians, poets and performers, including Paul Brady, The Gloaming, Glen Hansard and Imelda May. The ICC are proud to have worked with many of the acts taking part over the years. We are also delighted to have members of our own community joining those from other Irish centres across London, performing on stage in the Community Choir, in the presence of our president and HRH Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.

This event is reminiscent of the year of The Gathering’s “Glaoch - The President's Call”, a concert at Áras an Uachtaráin which celebrated Irishness, Irish creativity and its reach and impact across the world.

Lisa Hannigan to play at Ceiliuradh concert

The Ceiliúradh concert sold out in minutes, and is a testament to the scale of passion for Irish culture here in London. The need for a dedicated Irish venue in London, where our richest asset, our arts and culture, can be taught, produced and celebrated is more apparent than ever before.

We now await the launch of our new building, the new hub for Irish Arts and Culture in London with baited breath. The ICC's general manager welcomes the positive progress:

"To see the construction begin on the new hub for Irish Arts and Culture in London, in the week that our president arrived has been a symbolic moment for the whole team at the ICC. 

It is such an exciting time to be involved in Irish Culture in London. With so many Irish emigrants succeeding in creative careers here we feel like we're in good company among the artists of today and tomorrow."

For more info about the ICC’s building project, and our current programme of Education and Events, or our upcoming fund-raising activities please visit our website: 

For more info about Ceiliúradh please follow this link to Culture Ireland