Anniversary (our Festival long read)

A collection of Festival brocures dating 2003-2023.

Join us during #LIF2023 as we celebrate, commemorate and memorialise ‘anniversary’. We will also lay down memories for future recollections and considering our day-to-day rituals.

Article contents

Celebrate our ‘key-to-the-door’ year with us!

Liverpool Irish Festival has made it to twenty-one. Symbolically, this is the age when children pick up ‘senior’ status in the family. Customarily, keys were given to mark this birthday. This marker made us think about anniversary, commemoration and marking time.

LIF2008 brochure – click here for PDF

It’s perhaps not surprising that anniversaries are on our mind this year. We established ourselves in 2003, 20 years ago. It’s 15-years since Liverpool became European Capital of Culture; 25-years since The Good Friday Agreement and 100-years of the Republic of Ireland.

The funerals of notable figures over the past year -and centenaries or other memorials- have shown how we offer respect to lives past. Inaugurations, coronations and installations show, perhaps, how we offer respect to people we hold in power. Votes, personal targets and ceremonies are often about looking ahead.

21 Festivals

Brochure covers
Brochure covers

Since our first Festival in 2003 (Garva, Tom Paulin, Eamon Coye, Sean McNamara); we’ve played host to dancers, singers, musicians, filmmakers, academics, activists and performers. Looking back through the brochures reminds us of the meta-perceptual helmets visit in 2015; Kíla in 2018, John Spillane in 2012 and Ed Byrne and Damien Dempsey in 2008. We’ve had The Irish Sea Sessions, breakthrough films, competitions, exhibits and much more. Each year, we do our best to bring you different voices, strong discussions and entertainment. You can see all our previous programmes here, if you’d like to jog your memory.

Day-to-day memory making

As well as commemorating the big events, we want to think about what do we do with day-to-day events? How do we create memories for ourselves that help us to mark time, create memories and show people we care? What are the day-to-day rituals we use to shape our days, keep us healthy and connected or fuel our minds? How do they build to create, share and highlight life-events? Anniversary seems to be key to this. Whether it’s

    • a week since your first date
    • 60 years of marriage
    • your child’s first day at school
    • World Book Day
    • your cousin’s bar mitzvah or
    • a Super Bowl party…

…people across the world have developed celebrations. These lay down memories, bring people together and document their time on this spinning ball we call Earth.

Key moments

This year, as with any year, anniversaries straddle everything. They mark moments of peace and terror, love and hate, silence and noise. They document reconciliation, struggle, searches for justice and societal reform.

Key anniversaries we’ll be considering within our programme include:

  • 10-years since The McAleese Report
  • 25-years since The Good Friday Agreement, the opening of Liverpool’s new Irish Centre and the installation of the Liverpool Irish Famine Memorial in Liverpool
  • 175-years since the seven-year migration caused by An Gorta Mór (the Irish Famine).

In looking back, we can see how far we have come, but -additionally- how far there is still to go.


For the Festival we’ve created a timeline (see below) looking back over 5-year interval markers. By no means is it a complete history of anniversaries (even of the years represented), but -even in this list- we see a world building towards a recognition of individual freedoms and one of swift technological advances. We bear witness to struggles for personal identity and (collective) societal change. We can see violent defiance and defiance for positive change. As we consider our programme, and the anniversaries we looking back on making, we’ll also think about what future timelines might look like and what we’d like them to say about us, today. We invite you to join us in that vision, into laying out your hopes and aspirations and to thinking about what your next big milestone might be.

Stories and call to join us

Our Festival is made of stories about Irishness and reveals people searching for -and finding- their identity. We encourage you to join us in the physical and virtual spaces we build, in the hope you can celebrate, reflect and build with us. Our team can’t wait to see you and share time with you. In the meantime, gabh cùram agus fuirich sàbhailte/take care and stay safe!

Use our handle @LivIrishFest or hashtag #LIF2023 on all platforms to get in touch or comment on the Festival as we go along.

About: The Liverpool Irish Festival (registered charity No.110126, Company No. 4800736) is governed by a volunteer board, chaired by John Chandler, an original founder. We receive regular funding from Liverpool City Council’s Culture Arts Investment Programme and the Government of Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs Emigrant Support Programme. In 2020, we received HM Government’s Cultural Recovery Funding: #HereForCulture. We have been fortunate to receive a second round of National Lottery Heritage Funds for work on the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail, which we will be developing until 2024 under this project. Tourism Ireland are a Festival sponsor and we are pleased to have The Irish World as a media partner. To each we say thank you and go raibh maith agat/may you have goodness.

Documentary recommendations

For readers with television licences, the BBC has recently released a couple of documentaries readers may find interesting.

Please note, there are likely many other documentaries available and the Festival has no BBC ties. These were the ones that had come to our attention, but a Google search would reveal others that might be accessible in your region.

These may also be iof interest, for those looking in to Home Rule and Good Friday Agreement anniversaries:


This time line looks briefly at the last year, and -using 5-year intervals- offers some of the anniversaries that have passed. It is not a full history. Its purpose is to show us a snapshot of events that have shaped or shaken British and Irish lives, or those globally. In doing so, we see philosophical shifts, political activism and cultural icons move through time.

400+ years ago

Year                Years ago                   Event                    

1603                        420                      Queen Elizabeth I dies. She leaves a successional crisis and the contentious issue of Protestant leadership over a formerly Catholic nation

1723                        300                      Adam Smith -The Father of Capitalism’- is born. Smith goes on to theorise free market economies

1773                        250                      American colonists reject British East India Company imports by dumping 342 chests of tea in to the harbour. This rebellious act became known as the Boston Tea Party

1798                        225                      The Irish Rebellion of 1798 takes place in and near County Wexford. Presbyterian radicals, Catholics and republicans joined forces against Anglican rulers, angry at their lock-out from power. The rebellion was suppressed by the British Army, with c.50,000 dead

Under 200-years ago

1823                        200                      In Ireland, The Catholic Association is established to campaign for equal rights for Catholics

1833                        190                      The Slavery Abolition Law expanded The Slave Trade Act of 1807, making it illegal to purchase (or own) slaves within the British Empire (with two East India Company exceptions)

1838                        185                      After compensation payments to British colony slave owners, Britain’s enslaved people were released. It took until 1865 for the last enslaved people in America to be released from bondage (Galveston, Texas). This is 31 years after The Slave Trade Act

1843                        180                      Charles Dickens releases A Christmas Carol. 18 months later, Irish people are forced from Ireland due to hunger and landlord debts

1848                        175                      The third of seven years of death and migration, attributed to the Irish Famine (1845-52), continues

1873                        150                      Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis invent blue jeans and go in to production in Nevada (USA)

1878                        145                      Everton Football Club is founded

1878                        145                      Thomas Edison patents the phonograph in America, beginning the race to develop the telephone with Alexander Graham Bell

1893                        130                      Conradh na Gaeilge is founded

1893                        130                      Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance premieres at The Haymarket Theatre (London, UK)

1893                        130                      Charlotte Perkins Gilman releases The Yellow Wallpaper, a book on female depression and childbirth, a ground breaking piece of feminist literature

1898                        125                      Lewis Carrol (children’s author) and Aubrey Beardsley (decadent artist) -famed for his illustration of Oscar Wilde’s work- die

1898                        125                      Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol is released

1908                        115                      The first Ford Model-T rolled off the shop floor in the USA

1918                        105                      British women over the age of 30 win the right to vote

1918                        105                      World War I is brought to an end

Under 100-years ago

1923                        100                      Brendan Behan is born as Ireland becomes its own republic, following Home Rule political successes

1923                        100                      Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch fails. His arrest and imprisonment lead to the production of Mein Kampf

1923                        100                      Howard Carter opened the crypt of Tutankhamun

1923                        100                      The Eiffel Tower -and Statue of Liberty– designer Gustave Eiffel dies

1923                        100                      Turkey is founded as a new country after the fall of the Ottoman Empire

1923                        100                      WB Yeats is awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature and becomes a senator in the first Seanad Éireann

1923                        100                      Walt and Fred Disney open Disney Brothers Studio. Cross-country, Warner Brothers opens

1928                        95  Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin in Edinburgh

1933                        90  Drive-in movie theatres open in the USA

1933                        90  Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany

1933                        90  Hugh Gray (allegedly) captures the first photograph of the Loch Ness Monster, 45 years after it was said to have been seen for the first time by Alexander Macdonald

1933                        90  The United States District Court ruled Ulysses not to be obscene, opening the doors for its first mass market editions

1938                        85  For Hallowe’en, Orson Wells’s War of the Worlds is broadcast on the CBS Radio Network (New York, USA) generating over 12,500 articles in the following three weeks

1943                        80  Lasting a year, a week and a day, Allied Forces invaded Sicily to reclaim it from fascist leaders

1943                        80  Nikola Tesla -‘father of the alternating current’- passed away

1943                        80  The anniversary of the Dam Busters’ raid on the dams of the Ruhr Valley. Living on in history, they are well known as No.617 Squadron RAF Bomber Command

75-years and under

1948                        75  Nye Bevan champions the opening of the UK’s National Health Service following the National Health Service Act of 1946

1948                        75  One year after helping to gain India’s independence from Great Britain, Mohandas ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse at Birla House (New Delhi, India)

1948                        75  The Empire Windrush arrives on British shores from Kingston, Jamaica, carrying 492 (official figure) Commonwealth citizens

1948                        75  The London Co-operative Society opened its first supermarket at Manor Park (east London, UK). This was the first-time customers would serve themselves to stock from the shelves

1948                        75  The Republic of Ireland Act repeals Britain’s External Relations Act and introduces the Dáil Éireann

1948                        75  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is signed by the United Nations, enshrining rights and freedoms to all humans

1953                        70  James Bond hits the shelves as Ian Fleming releases Casino Royale, the first of 12 Bond adventures

1953                        70  Signed in 1950, The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms -commonly known as the European Convention on Human Rights– came in to force. That same year, England and Ireland join the EU


1963                        60  American President John F. Kennedy is assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dealey Plaza (Dallas, Texas, USA)

1963                        60  Bristol’s Bus Boycott creates a watershed moment for Black politics in Britain when activists forced the transport company to overturn their ‘colour bar’ policy. All colour bars were deemed illegal in the 1965 Race Relations Act

1963                        60  John Lennon utters the immortal line “would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewellery” at a Royal Command Performance at The Prince of Wales Theatre

1963                        60  Martin Luther King Jr delivers his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, during the March on Washington, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (Washington DC, USA)

1968                        55  Catholic civil rights activists in Derry faced a baton charge from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (known to have a large Protestant majority) at a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march, leading to further riots

1968                        55  Sirhan Sirhan assassinates Robert F. Kennedy at The Ambassadors Hotel (California, USA), 5-years after his brother, JFK, was murdered

1973/50 years ago

(Britain’s) Open University awards its first degrees

1.6m British workers joined the Trade Union Congress call to strike against poor pay and price rises leading to the 3-day week

Concorde crosses the Atlantic for the first time

Hip-hop is born when DJ Kool Herc flipped the switch on musical breaks and MC’ing over breakdancing at a Sedgwick Avenue (Bronx, NY, USA) party

Irish In Britain -a national membership network- is founded

London’s Old Bailey (the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales) is targeted with two Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombs in an attack known as ‘Bloody Thursday’. Between 180-220 people were thought to be injured

Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon; Mike Oldfield releases Tubular Bells and Paul McCartney and Wings release Band on the Run

Roe vs Wade changes the USA’s (federal) constitution, generally protecting a woman’s right to have an abortion. The reversal of Roe vs Wade in 2022 means that state laws are subject to change

The Irish Marriage Bar -forcing women to leave public service work at the point of marriage- is lifted

The Paris Peace Accord is signed by North and South Vietnam and the United States of America to officially end the Vietnam War

The Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso, Chilean poet and diplomat, Pablo Neruda, and British author, JRR Tolkien, each pass away

Discussions for a power-sharing arrangement with the Northern Ireland Executive and the cross-border Council of Ireland were held at Sunningdale Park. Talks collapsed after Unionist backlashes and the 1974 general strike


1988                        35  The Ocean Steam Ship Company -better known as The Blue Funnel Line– closed its services. The line was founded by the Holts, a Liverpool family

1988                        35  Liverpool TATE opens, transforming a previously derelict warehouse in Albert Dock in to a James Stirling designed, contemporary gallery. In Oct 2023, Liverpool TATE will close for a 3-year renovation project

1988                        35  University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies is established following the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, to encourage greater understanding and mutually enriching contact between the islands. It’s a unique institution, designed around scholarship, outreach and policy impact

30-years and younger

1993                        30  Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is released

1993                        30  The Maastricht Treaty -otherwise known as the Treaty on European Union or the foundation treaty- was rolled in to effect

1993                        30  The Sister of Our Lady of Charity (High Park, Drumcondra, Dublin) sold part of their land to recover funds after some failed stock dealings. On commencing construction work, the new developer discovered 133 unmarked graves, with a further 22 being found later. Though slow to create action, this discovery -and the public outcry it raised- has led to official inquiries and commissions

1993                        30  The United Nations appoint an Officer of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

1993                        30  Warrington was targeted by IRA bombings, killing Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry and injuring 54

1998                        25  Google is founded in Menlo Park (California, USA)

1998                        25  Pope John Paul II formally apologises for the failure of the Roman Catholic Church to challenge the Nazis over the Holocaust

1998                        25  Taro Chiezo’s Superlambanana is installed in Williamson Square, Liverpool

1998                        25  The Good Friday/Belfast Agreement is signed, based on the “parity of esteem” between nations

1998                        25  The Liverpool Irish Centre reopens at St Michael’s, having closed the Wellington Rooms in 1997

1998                        25  The Liverpool Irish Famine Trail founded by the Liverpool Great Hunger Commemoration Committee

20-years and less

2003                        20  Great Britain’s repeal of Section 28 ended the ban on the “promotion of homosexuality”, permitting the discussion of LGBT culture in education and media

2003                        20  The US military enter Iraq in search of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ (WMDs), soon followed by British and other forces. To date over a 104, 000 people on all sides have died in the conflict and Iraq’s political stability remains unstable

2003                        20  The Liverpool Irish Festival is founded, running a four-day programme (23-26 Oct), much of which was at The (much-missed) Flying Picket

2008                        15  Liverpool becomes European Capital of Culture and Liverpool ONE opens

10 and below

2013                        10  Liverpool Central Library reopens after a huge renovation project

2013                        10  Philomena, a film about a former Irish institution resident (starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan), is released. This comes in the same year as the Report for the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the Facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries (widely called The McAleese Report) is issued

2013                        10  Same-sex marriage is legalised in Great Britian. Two years on, Ireland will legalise same-sex marriage by a public referendum, being the first country in the world to do so by public mandate

2013                        10  The world mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela (b.1918-d.2013) and Seamus Heaney (b.1939-d.2013)

2018                        5      A referendum in Ireland changed the constitution to permit abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, amending the UK’s 1861 Offences Against the Person Act

2018                        5      At least 83 people were wrongly deported by the UK’s Home Office during The Windrush Scandal, leading to o the eventual resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd

2018                        5      Liverpool installs the first UNESCO World Music City Music Board

2022                        1      People remembered Queen Elizabeth II, Pope Benedict XVI, Lord David Trimble, Cherry Valentine, Terry Neill, Ashling Murphy, Chloe Mithcell, Ashley Dale, Sam Rimmer, Olivia Pratt-Korbell and those killed at Creeslough, following their deaths, last year. We also remember those who have died in the Ukrainian-Russian War, begun by Vladimir Putin in 2022

This year

2023                        0      This year we have been sad to announce the passing of local historian Michael Kelly and singer, songwriter and activist and Sinéad O’Connor and comedian and presenter Paul O’Grady.

Associated events (please note, these may have passed)

Related writing

First published 10 Sept 2023. Updated 22 Sept 2023.