Structure, public funding and our Board


The Liverpool Irish Festival are led and supported by a Board of Trustee Directors, who volunteer their time, services and experience in the pursuance of supporting our Memorandum of Understanding and our policies. We are governed by a strong set of policies, which are reviewed annually. They have been consolidated in to one document, which can be found here.

The programme, day-to-day work and funding is handled by their Director, Emma Smith.

The Liverpool Irish Festival is a charity (registered number 04800736) and a registered company (1100126) with a Memorandum of Understanding, available using this link.

You can access our details via Companies House, here.

Public funding

We are annually supported by Liverpool City Council and their Cultural Investment Programme (c.£23,000 for 2018-19) and the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme (c.£11,000 for 2018-19). We have also been successful in securing Arts Council England funding (£14,999 for #LIF2018) and amaximum of 7,000EUR from Culture Ireland.

We use this public funding to provide free and subsidised events.

Our Board

John Chandler – Chair. Retired manager of Children and Family services. Experience in statutory, voluntary and private sectors, encompassing strategic and operational management, fundraising, creating and managing projects throughout the Northwest. Previously, a national consultant for the Department for Children Schools and Families on commissioning and developing services. Founded Liverpool Irish Festival in 2003.

Kath Flaherty – Treasurer. An experienced book-keeper, Kath is a freelancer who works for various companies – creative and commercial – across Liverpool, including Adam Partridge’s Auction House, Brouhaha and other Liverpool based independents. An skilled ceramicist, Kath’s Irish background – both her father’s and husband’s – gives her a rich insight in to Irish culture, whilst her Liverpool upbringing make her an ideal board candidate for the Liverpool Irish Festival.

Patrick Donnelly. An independent management consultant and recent Associate Partner in IBM Finance and Risk Management. Consulting practice with experience of directing and delivering transformation across global organisations within the UK and internationally. Patrick’s experience includes programme and change management, strategic planning, procurement transformation, systems implementation and customer relationship management.

Tony Birtill. With 30 years of experience in further and higher education, Tony is Secretary of Liverpool branch of the Gaelic League (founded 1896). He teaches Irish classes at the Liverpool Irish Centre and contributes to Irish language media and the Irish Post. Tony is an NUJ member.

Professor Mary Hickman. Professor Emeritus of Irish Studies and Sociology at London Metropolitan University, Mary was Professorial Research Fellow, Centre for Irish Studies, at St Mary’s University, London between 2012-2016. Mary was pivotal in establishing the Irish Studies Centre at London Metropolitan University in 1988; and was also Director for the Institute for the Study of European Transformations, at London Met 2002-2012. Mary’s research specialisms include Irish migration and diaspora. Her latest book is Women and Irish Diaspora Identities (edited with J. MacPherson, 2014). Mary has extensive experience of community involvement and of being a trustee, currently being a trustee of the London Irish Centre, a member of the Mayor of London’s Community Advisory Committee for the St Patrick’s Day Festival, and Chair of the campaign Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad (VICA).

Professor Peter Shirlow. Professor Peter Shirlow is the Blair Chair and Director of the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies. He was formerly the Deputy Director of the Institute for Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queens University Belfast. He is a Visiting Research Professor at the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice and sits on the editorial boards of Irish Political Studies and International Planning Studies and as a board member of the mental health charity, Threshold.

Dr Joe McGrath. Joe was formerly Programme Leader at the Liverpool Business School at Liverpool John Moore’s University. He is an experienced Principal Lecturer with a demonstrated history of combining higher education and commercial practice. Skilled in programme development at all levels, coaching & mentoring, marketing, digital marketing, strategic planning, business development, and lecturing.

Michelle Rushforth. Currently the Higher Education Quality Manager at LIPA, Michelle worked for 17 years at the University of Liverpool and as Head of Teaching Quality for 8 years. She is from County Down and has lived in Liverpool since 1996. She has considerable experience in policy development, regulation, audit, writing submissions/bids and partnership development. Michelle has a keen interest in Irish music, comedy and dance. Having joined the Board in autumn 2017, she is looking forward to working on local engagement, festival evaluation and development.

Emma Walsh. Professional reader and aspiring freelance writer with experience in journalism, blogging and social media. emma recently left a communications rol for national charity The Reader, to pursue her independent practice. Emma is “an Irish mongrel with loyalties divided between Tyrone and Dublin” who has called Liverpool home for the last decade.

Maev McDaid. Maev is undertaking a PhD at the University of Sheffield on the everyday experiences of the retired Irish Diaspora in London. She holds a degree in Modern History and Irish Studies from the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool and is the Academic Outreach Officer there. Maev has a passion for Irish culture and the arts and is a folk harpist who plays across England.

Wendy Simon – Board observer. Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Culture Tourism and Events at Liverpool City Council and political lead for all major events held by the city. Wendy is responsible for Culture Liverpool, the sports & leisure department, libraries, St George’s Hall, Liverpool Town Hall and the Cruise Liner Terminal holding strong links with all cultural partners in the City. A social work manager by occupation, specialising in Child Protection, Wendy also has post-graduate qualifications in Law and Social policy & Criminal Justice Management.

Advisors to the Board

Paddy Hoey and Greg Quiery both served as Board members for the Liverpool Irish Festival until recently. Despite resigning their directorships, both continue to assist with programme connections and development matters.

Dr Paddy Hoey. Lecturer in Media and Politics at Edge Hill University. Formerly lecturer in Journalism, Media and Politics at Liverpool Hope University and journalist for the Liverpool Daily Post and ECHO as well as contributor and presenter on City Talk FM. Paddy has been a music, literature and comedy columnist for Liverpool ECHO and Post and writer and contributor to the Liverpool Comedy Festival. He has also held a consultant role with the Laughterhouse Comedy Club in Liverpool. Enthusiastic podcaster and blogger.

Greg Quiery. Retired education consultant and senior manager in the Liverpool Education service. Former head teacher and community development worker and manager within the community and voluntary sector. Greg has been a lecturer and also developed a series of Liverpool Irish heritage walks and an Irish heritage trail for Museum of Liverpool. Greg has some project management and fundraising experience and is Chair of the Liverpool Great Hunger Commemoration Committee.