Volunteers help a young person try on on of 2015's Metaperceptual Helmets (c) Pete Carr. Thi simage is a detail of the original.

Liverpool Irish Festival 2015 – biggest yet!

“It was amazing, really energetic, lively, really drew you in. It was just one of the best things I’ve seen live for a very very long time.  Excellent.  Really really enjoyed it.” Visitor comment.

A record breaking 20,000 came to this year’s Liverpool Irish Festival, the largest audience in the Festival’s history, attended its 50+ events which took place at over 30 venues.  10,000 interacted with the Meta-Perceptual Helmets, a new media artwork available for free in the city centre during the ten-day Festival.

Throughout the Festival, people were asked what they thought about Irish culture and what they’d seen as part of the programme, be it a film, performance, music event or poetry, offering three words to describe their impression. Responses included “pride”, “humble”, “loving”, “authentic”, “fun”, “history”, “friendly”, “lively”, “challenging” “moving” “memorable”. “Endless, surprising, journey” was the reflection from one event.

Laura Naylor, former Festival Manager, says. “We wanted to ask our audience this year about how they see Irish culture. As we’re evolving the Festival to explore a more diverse combination of contemporary as well as traditional Irish culture we wanted to see what the response was. Irish identity and heritage is important to the city, the population of Liverpool swelled by four times its original size during the great famine. People feel emotionally connected to their Irish past and identity here, which is clearly how people feel when they come to the Festival. We also want to educate those who don’t know about the Irish heritage and connections of Liverpool”.

With new funding from Arts Council England, this year the Festival explored a public realm art experience with the Meta-Perceptual Helmets, created by Irish artists Anne Cleary and Declan Connelly. The highly polished handcrafted wearable helmets contained prisms and lenses and offered the public new animal perspectives on the world. Whilst giving the wearers a cultural experience they also taught the public about science and design. They were a huge hit with around 10,000 people trying them out.

Anne Cleary, one of the artists who created the work, says, “We were delighted to take part in the Liverpool Irish Festival. The Festival mixes the contemporary and the traditional in a really upbeat way, and reflects the wide range of cultural influences that is Ireland today.  It was great to be in Liverpool alongside such legends as Christy Moore, while having the opportunity to see some of Ireland’s newest and most exciting performers.”

For the past two years, the Festival has showcased some of the newer acts and cutting edge performance coming from Ireland. This year this included Rusangano Family, featuring mynameisjOhn, MuRli and Godknows who played a blistering set in Liverpool’s Kazimier Garden.

They said,

“The Liverpool Irish Festival was definitely one of the highlights of 2015 for us, in terms of performance but also socially.  As a band, it was hugely rewarding for us to be invited to play there and meet like-minded people for the first time who are actively making and promoting similar music to ourselves.  It felt like the whole city was part of the welcoming party, and absolutely everyone we met there was bang-on A1 sound.

We were really impressed with the forward-thinking attitude of the whole festival in terms of pushing CONTEMPORARY culture.  Tin whistles and wooly jumpers are all well and good, but it felt like the Liverpool Irish Festival was pushing a more current modern view of where Irish music is currently at, and show some real savvy in booking acts that are all breaking through and trying to sculpt a new vision of what Ireland represents.  Everyone involved are certifiable legends.  We LOVED it.”

Sea Legs featured folk artist Ciaran Lavery and electronic artist Ryan Vail in an exclusive live performance of their mini album. Manager Lyndon Stephens said the night was very special.

“The Sea Legs show at Leaf as part of the Liverpool Irish Festival was just fantastic, great location, crowd and atmosphere.  It’s amazing that the Liverpool Irish Festival is providing a platform for contemporary Irish music and acts like this. We loved being a part of it”.

The Irish Embassy in London added their endorsement of the festival “The Embassy of Ireland is delighted to support such as diverse and exciting programme as that offered by the Liverpool Irish Festival. It truly represents the breadth and innovation of modern Irish culture, featuring everything from an outdoor céili on the streets of Liverpool to innovative visual artists, contemporary dance and even meta-perceptual helmets.”

For now the Festival team is preparing for 2016, when it will return in October (13-23 Oct). There are also events planned for earlier in 2016, as former Festival Manager Laura Naylor explains, “We’re working with more promoters and artists in both Liverpool and Ireland and we’re getting a lot of interest for other special events and screenings outside of the traditional Festival dates. We’ll see, we could have music and film coming your way throughout the year”.

New partnerships in 2015 included Kazimier, Liverpool Small Cinema, Leaf, Magnet, Unity, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool Music Week, 92 Degrees, Bold Street Coffee as well as longstanding connections with FACT, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, St Michael’s Irish Centre and Mellowtone.

Liverpool Irish Festival 2015 was funded by Liverpool City Council, the Irish Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Tourism Ireland.

Look back at Liverpool Irish Festival with our special gallery, here.

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