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 annual theme and programme; funding and artist liaison is handled by Artistic Director and CEO, Emma Smith. Emma can be reached using this link.

The Liverpool Irish Festival is a charity (registered number 04800736) and a registered company (1100126), constituted under Articles of Association. You can view further details via Companies House, here.

Public funding

The Festival receives annual funding from Liverpool City Council’s Cultural Investment Programme and the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme. We have also been successful in securing project funds from Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Funds.

Liverpool Irish Festival use this public funding to provide free and subsidised events. We are not a commercial festival and -as a charity- have a public benefit mission. This affects the nature of our work and is refelected in our Artistic Policy, commissioning and programme ambitions.

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. You can reach John using this link.

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.

John Eustace (Treasurer) is a Wicklow native and first moved to Liverpool during its year as European Capital of Culture. Currently working as the Financial Controller for The food WAREHOUSE, part of the Iceland foods group, John has extensive international experience of strategic planning and adding value in fast changing business environments. He is also a member of the committee with the Liverpool Wolfe Tones GAA club.

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.

Martin Bond is Cabinet Member for Finance & Governance at St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council and Branch Secretary of Unite (St Helens Central Branch). He is an immigration professional, providing advice on employment issues for Citizens Advice. Martin grew up in a small enclave of the diaspora between the two larger Irish communities in Manchester and Liverpool. Irish dance, music and GAA were all part of his upbringing, shared between the two cities and St Helens. He has a particular interest in the role that the diaspora played in the industrial and political history of Merseyside and South West Lancashire; especially the legacies of James Larkin, Stephen Walsh and James Sexton.

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 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).

Paul Hogan worked as a Director at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham for a ten-year period with responsibility for libraries, arts and events, museums and heritage, parks and sport and physical activity. He started his career in Liverpool, where he was the administrator of two dance companies, before moving on to become the first Director of the Citadel Arts Centre in St. Helens. Later, Paul became Principal Arts Officer for Renfrewshire Council; followed by stints at councils in Leicestershire and Derbyshire. In addition to his work responsibilities, he has been a trustee of the Spark Children’s Theatre Festival, and more recently for a community managed library service and community sports club in Dagenham.

Eamonn Lavin was born in Dublin. A graduate of University of Liverpool and the Open University, he  holds a BSC Hons and a BEng Hons. Eamonn is General Manager of The Philharmonic Dining Rooms’s team of 25, having been General Manager of O’Neills Liverpool for 23 years. Winning General Manager of the Year on several occasions, he has won numerous national and local awards, including a fact finding trip to the National Restaurant Exhibition in Chicago. Eamonn is a Trustee director on the Mitchell’s and Butlers pension board (£2.2bn in assets) and has a wide range of experience organising musical and standalone events; providing stage management through to wide-ranging food and hospitality experiences.

Siubhán Macauley has worked in the arts since moving from Co. Down to Liverpool to pursue a degree in Music, providing rich experience in events, marketing and fundraising. In the early stages of a career in the arts, Siubhán is a fundraiser, having worked as a ceannaire (leader) on Irish language courses in Machaire Rabhartaigh (Co. Donegal) for a number of years, she continues to learn and improve her Irish. A musician and amateur photographer, she loves partaking in the cultural life of Liverpool.  

Siobhan Noble is a freelance theatre producer and marketer for creative and live events, with over a decade of experience in creating regional touring theatre. Siobhan’s love for the arts began as a member of the Liverpool Playhouse Youth Theatre. Her career highlights include running Liverpool’s (much missed) fringe venue The Lantern Theatre and working with Tmesis Theatre, TransCreative, Unity Theatre and the Everyman and Playhouse. Siobhan is a proud member of the Irish diaspora, with fond memories of childhood Saturdays spent -learning to Irish dance- in Liverpool’s Mount Pleasant Irish Centre.

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

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

Greg Quiery. Retired education consultant and senior manager in the Liverpool Education service, Greg is a former head teacher and community development worker, who has served as a manager within the community and voluntary sector. Having been a lecturer, Greg developed a series of Liverpool Irish heritage walks, an Irish heritage trail for Museum of Liverpool and is Chair of the Liverpool Great Hunger Commemoration Committee.