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A view up through a tall ship's rigging

Shanty-singing and the Irish Atlantic

In honour of Liverpool Irish Festival‘s role in the Merseyside River Festival 2017 (25 June 2017), we have not only taken over the Liverpool International Music Festival stage for 5 hours (12-5pm), but we have also sought to find out more about the tremendous history of shanty-singing. Connecting with Professor Gerry Smith,  below he provides a potted history (printable version available at the end) ahead of his band’s performance. Make sure you look out for the Rock Light Rollers, along with great music from Emma Lusby, Seafoam Green, Mamtung and Tippin’ It Up. We’ll be on the Kaskelot,12-5pm on Sunday 25 June 2017.

Shanty-singing and the Irish Atlantic

Identity and Hybridity in the Musical Imagination of Stan Hugill

Gerry Smyth, Professor of Irish Cultural History, Liverpool John Moores University


Stan Hugill was born on 19 November 1906 in the old coastguard station in the small seaside village of Hoylake. After he went to sea in 1921, Stan went on to become a key figure within the international shanty tradition. Regularly cited as the last genuine shantyman working aboard a British ship, Stan eventually domiciled in the Welsh port of Aberdovey after the Second World War, where he became the centre of a great international research network focused on different aspects of the shanty tradition. He wrote three books (as well as hundreds of shorter articles) that remain at the heart of shanty research as well as the living shanty tradition as it is still practised in a variety of musical and folkloric contexts.

I have been particularly fascinated to discover that in each of his major works, Stan Hugill developed a peculiar understanding of the influence of Ireland and Irish music within the international shanty tradition. In this article I want to suggest that the characterisation of Irish music as central to the shanty tradition has important implications for an understanding of the category of Ireland and Irishness at a key moment of its modern evolution; and further, that Stan’s work draws on and contributes to the history of what might be described as the ‘Irish Atlantic’.

Shanties and Shanty Singing: A Brief History

The shanty tradition with which we are familiar today emerged at a particular time and from a very particular set of circumstances. Most authorities acknowledge that whereas some form of co-ordinated singing has probably existed since prehistory, the modern shanty tradition only commenced after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. The expansion of transatlantic trade and travel necessitated the development of a particular type of ship: the large-capacity, high-speed, multi-masted deep-water vessel. All commentators are likewise adamant that the shanty singing which developed soon after the commencement of this commercial opportunity was practiced only aboard merchant vessels; the British and American navies operated according to a different system in which efficiency and discipline were based on the strict observation of a specialised system of signals, codes and protocols.

A.L. Lloyd pinpoints the moment of ‘take-off’: it was in 1816 – the year after Waterloo – that

Isaac Wright & Co’s Black Ball Line began their regular run between New York and Liverpool, sailing on the first of each month, irrespective of weather or amount of cargo loaded, twenty-three days for the eastward trip, about forty coming back.

Other ‘lines’ followed soon after: Swallowtail, Red Cross, Dramatic, Black Cross. Tonnage and yardage increased throughout the middle decades of the century; more ships, more passages, more commerce.

One thing that did not necessarily increase, however, was crew size; fewer men working harder and longer made commercial sense. Work on board the typical ‘packet’ ship following the routes between Britain and the Americas consisted in large part of a variety of hauling and heaving tasks – raising the anchor, raising and adjusting sails, pumping bilge water, and so forth. It was soon observed that sailors operated more efficiently when working to a rhythm that was sympathetic to the task in hand; and it was in this context that the benefits of the call-and-response, co-ordinated work song was recognised. The shantyman who organised this activity took on a recognised role; a strong voice and an ability to improvise content could earn a sailor a bonus on top of his normal pay.

A series of song forms thus emerged, each designed to aid one or other of the onboard chores necessary for the efficient running of these bigger, faster vessels. Stan describes two main types and their sub-divisions:

The capstan song and the halyard song. The capstan song was subdivided into: a) the windlass, or anchor capstan shanty, b) the capstan song, sung when doing a job-o-work other than heaving the anchor … The halyard shanty, used for hoisting sails, was subdivided into: a) long pulls; b) foresheeters; c) bunt-stowers … For pumping it was considered any old sea-song would do, so long as it had a good grand chorus.

Although A.L. Lloyd points out that ‘tight categories are misleading’, he too acknowledges that ‘in the earlier, formative years of the modern shanty, the nature of the job in hand and the gestures needed to fulfil it were important, even decisive, in shaping the melody, rhythm, metre and tempo of the songs.’

The practice of shanty-singing as we know it best emerged during the American-dominated packet-ships of, roughly, 1830-50, and reached its peak in the British-dominated clipper-ship era of 1855-70. As a living tradition it was all but dead by about 1875 in the face of competition from steam.

In terms of the characteristic themes of the shanty, it is difficult to generalise, as lyrics were often occasional and improvised. The more physically difficult the onboard task, the less sense required; ‘songs’ could descend into a series of grunts and nonsense images (some of them borrowed from ‘foreign’ languages such as Gaelic). Longer, more tedious tasks, on the other hand, could afford to be more expansive (both in structural and in lyrical terms) in order to engage the sailor’s attention as well as his effort. There is plenty of evidence, for example, of some of narrative folk songs being adapted specifically for work gang purposes. There was also a stock of ‘floating’ formulations (references to particular ports, officer types, food quality, women’s names, and so on) which could be readily adapted for any task at any time.

It’s also interesting to remember that most of the shanty lyrics were so sexually explicit that the earliest collectors could not see their way clear to committing them to paper. Even an old salt such as Stan Hugill danced around innuendo and refrained from citing words that he feared might offend his more delicate readers. Colourful characters coping with difficult circumstances was one thing, it seems; obscenity and indecency (as defined by late Victorian and early twentieth-century publishers) was something else again. Editorial intervention thus played as important a role in the emergence of a shanty canon as it did in the formation of other elements of the ‘folk revival’.

There is of course a world of difference between the original singing context and the various contexts within which the shanty subsequently fetched up – everything from folk clubs to popular adaptations to classical settings. ‘Some shantymen were bawlers’, according to Lloyd, ‘others used a delicate intimate voice. Some sang their solo lines in strict tempo, others preferred a rubato that at times … was quite elaborate.’ Harmony and ornamentation were unusual but not entirely unknown. Such considerations were somewhat beside the point, however – as Stan complained: ‘[shore] singers of shanties rarely manage to get the right “atmosphere” into their offerings; they are not raucous or strident enough.’

According to Lloyd, the later shanty material (ca. 1850-1875) reveals the seaman’s increasing awareness that he represented ‘an exploited floating proletarian rather than a proud if battered seadog.’ The shanties tell of ‘bully’ seamen and ‘bucko’ mates, the rigours of work and weather, the prowess of the ship and the line, and so on; the port songs tell of pubs and drinking sessions, women (invariably false), and ‘crimping’ – the elaborate system developed worldwide to part the sailor from his pay and get him back to sea as quickly as possible.

Where did these songs come from? Lloyd points out that

the musical accents of many places went into the composition of the shanties. The melodies are a fine jumble of pentatonic phrases that may have derived originally from Gaelic or African culture, modal formulas from the English countryside, and modern commonplaces from stage hits of the first half of Victoria’s reign. Similarly the poetic improvisations of the shantymen are incrusted with bits of traditional imagery that first sparkled in the Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Negro mind, along with tags invented by the yelping comedians of the time on both sides of the Atlantic.

Stan describes an eclectic range of sources and influences, including long-established hauling cries, dance tunes, folk songs and ballads (American and European as well as British), adapted art music, including custom-composed martial music of varying kinds; hymns, and popular songs. By far the two most important influences on the development of the shanty, however, were African-American sources (including work songs associated with the southern American Gulf Ports, as well as West Indian and Latin American contributions), and, most consistently from Stan’s perspective, Ireland.

Liverpool, Irish, Liverpool-Irish

There was a significant amount of traffic (both in goods and people) between Ireland and Liverpool since the latter received its charter from King John in 1207. That traffic developed in size and significance throughout the medieval and early modern period. As Britain’s imperial fortunes grew throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, Ireland languished in political and economic stagnation.

Either as a transit port or as a final destination, Liverpool continued to loom large in the Irish imagination throughout the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries. In 1841, the city was already home to nearly 50,000 Irish-born people – roughly one-seventh of the population. That figure was soon to rocket. The historian John Belchem quotes a local stipendiary magistrate who calculated that ‘296,331 persons landed at Liverpool from Ireland between 13 January and 13 December 1847, of whom 116,000 were “half naked and starving”’.  Many more were to follow, as an Gorta Mór – the ‘Great Hunger’ – extended to the end of the decade and beyond. The majority of those fleeing the horror back in Ireland were passing through in search of better chances in various far-flung destinations; exhausted and traumatised, however, many stayed where they fetched up – in the warren of streets that grew up around the docking sites, before slowly moving out into the burgeoning city itself.

A particular form of ‘Irishness’ emerged in the wake of the Famine exodus, formed of a combination of original ethnicity, stereotyping by the resident population, and a useful ability to adapt to new circumstances – Belchem again:

Liverpool ‘Irishness’ was in part an imposed and host-invented stigma, but was also a creative response, an act of migrant self-imagination to facilitate adjustment to new surroundings.

‘Scouse’ culture is frequently approached with reference to this strong post-Famine strain of Irishness; and one of the most significant elements of that culture is music. As popular music historian Paul du Noyer puts it: ‘The Irish shaped many facets of Scouse character, but their greatest contribution was the view of music as one of life’s necessities.’ Such a contribution tends to feature strongly in autobiographical accounts, such as Tommy Walsh’s Being Irish in Liverpool (Liverpool, 2011), in which music is represented as central to the Liverpool-Irish community within which he grew up.

It seems clear, then, that Ireland features strongly in Liverpool’s self-image. ‘Emblematic of the Liverpool struggle against adversity, misperception and misrepresentation’, writes John Belchem, ‘the Liverpool-Irish slummy was inscribed as the prototypical “scouser”’. It’s true that the Famine Irish contributed significantly to unprecedented levels of poverty, crime, drunkenness, disease and death in Liverpool; the moral outrage of the established population in the face of this apparent onslaught was considerable, and has continued to feed reactionary, betimes racist, attitudes concerning immigration in general, and the Irish in particular, down to the present day. But the Irish also brought a great variety of attitudes and practices that have become embedded within the fabric of the city. There can be no doubt that the Great Famine was the defining event of modern Irish history – the basis of a recurring traumatic memory that profoundly influenced all subsequent developments, political as well as cultural. But it was also responsible for the consolidation of Liverpool as an indelible part of the Irish geo-cultural and psycho-spatial imagination – a development which in turn fed the notion of Liverpool as an exceptional city, a place apart.

Stan Hugill’s Irishman

Stan Hugill considered himself to be a ‘Liverpool man’; it was the port where he first took ship, and where he was registered as a sailor. If the evidence of his work is to be credited, Liverpool remained at the centre of his imagination throughout his life. When he came to describe the great ‘sailortowns’ of the world, Liverpool took precedence over the likes of London, San Francisco and Hamburg. Growing up in a village near a great port that was so identified with Ireland and Irishness, it’s perhaps not surprising that Stan was primed to engage with the Irish elements in the social and cultural of life of Liverpool – particularly insofar as they pertained to the musical and maritime elements which featured so strongly in his own experience.

This Irish influence may be observed throughout Stan’s work in a number of respects. He suggests, for example, that a significant proportion of the international deep-water song repertoire were of Irish origin:

Many shanties had Irish tunes – dance, folk, and march – and not only were the words and phrases of many of the shanties of Irish origin but in some cases it was customary for the shantyman to sing the shanties with an imitative Irish brogue. The Packet Rats of the Western Ocean Packets were almost one hundred per cent Irish, either from County this or that, or from Liverpool’s Scotland Road or New York’s Bowery and West Side, and as these seamen were responsible for many of our finest shanties it was only natural for them to choose tunes and words from Irish sources when they made up these songs. Nearly all the forebitters are of Irish origin and many of these were used as capstan and pump songs on account of their stirring choruses.

Many of these songs incorporated macaronic Gaelic terms left over from their original language, and this underpinned another claim: that the shanties associated with traffic between Liverpool and the eastern American seaboard were, irrespective of their provenance or of the singer’s ethnicity, usually sung in ‘an imitative Irish brogue’. Most tellingly, Stan claims that Irish songs and melodies were subject to an ongoing ‘folk’ process in which they were adapted for use by different people in a wide range of contexts.

What might be described as the ‘Irishification’ of the Atlantic trade routes commenced in earnest after the Famine, with crews culled from expatriate Irish communities on either side of the ocean. And with these crews came a particular repertoire of music, songs and performance styles – many of the shanties and ballads that were to become canonical, well-known pieces such as

‘The Liverpool Judies’, ‘Paddy Lay Back’, ‘Paddy West, ‘The Banks of Newfoundland’, ‘The Liverpool Packet’ and so on, many of which were used as capstan shanties. They were responsible too for the following windlass, halyard, pumping and sheet shanties: ‘Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her’ (first sung as ‘Across the Rocky Mountains’ and ‘Across the Western Ocean’), ‘Blow the Man Down’, ‘The Blackball Line’, ‘Time for Us to Go’ or ‘A Hundred Years Ago’, and many others. Some of these forebitters and shanties have airs reminiscent of those of Erin’s Isle, and ‘Can’t Ye Dance the Polka?’ unmistakeably has the air of ‘Larry Doolan’, a well-known Irish song.

Stan identifies two processes simultaneously at work: a growing Irish influence (in terms of repertoire and singing style), especially in the period after the Great Famine; and the hybridisation of that influence in the context of increasingly speedy, highly mobile, transatlantic trade.

The former process may be observed in relation to a song such as ‘The Irish Emigrant’ (also known as ‘We’re All Bound to Go’), an outward-bound windlass shanty. With its jig tune and its story of a young Irish emigrant (sometimes male, sometimes female) in Liverpool looking for passage to the New World, this song, Stan writes, ‘is Irish to its very bones’:

As I walked out one morning down by the Clarence Dock,

I heard a bully Irish boy conversing with Tapscott;

‘Good morning, Mister Tapscott, would ye be arter telling me,

If ye’ve got a ship bound for New York in the state of Amerikee?’

This is a song is of a particular type – a narrative ‘come-all-ye’, identified in this instance by its characteristic opening line: ‘As I walked out …’. A.L. Lloyd suggests that this form emerged in Ireland in the eighteenth century, but came to prominence across Britain in the wake of the Great Famine, with the influx of Irish people into the great industrial centres. ‘The Irish Emigrant’ represents a typical adaptation of the form within a British – or more precisely, a migrant – context.

In this transcription, Stan attempts to reproduce the sounds and locutions of an Irish accent. We find the word ‘Amerikee’, for example, scattered throughout the Anglophone shanty canon; along with the equally popular ‘Amerikay’, it was used for rhyming purposes, but also in hopeful imitation of an Irish pronunciation of the word ‘America’. Stan also points out that the Irish pronunciation of the word ‘meal’ was responsible for the common misapprehension that emigrants travelled on ‘mail’ ships. Such words represent a particular form of language (Hiberno-Irish) that was at this time itself undergoing rapid change by language users who were negotiating the profoundly traumatic experience of alienation – both from the land of their birth and from the language of their ancestors.

We find a classic use (or misuse, as it happens) of one of those locutions in line three of the verse quoted above. Because there is no verb ‘to have’ in Gaelic, the perfect and pluperfect past tenses of ‘to have’ is formed with parts of the verb ‘to be’ in conjunction with the preposition tar éis – meaning ‘after’. So, in Gaelic, one might say: Tá mé tar éis mo dhinnér a ithe – which in Standard English would mean something like ‘I’ve just eaten my dinner’, but actually translates as ‘I am after eating my dinner’. As Gaelic began to disappear, that particular locution became widely used in Hiberno-Irish; and as it did so, it becomes an easily reproducible way of invoking an Irish identity.

In fact, the locution is mis-applied by Stan (or by his source) in this particular example. The Irish emigrant who is conversing with Mr Tapscott (an actual agent based in Liverpool in the years after the Famine) means to say something like: ‘Could you tell me if you’ve got a ship bound for New York’. There’s no meaningful sense in which the locution ‘after’ (or ‘arter’) might be employed in this context, other than for the purpose of invoking a stereotypical Irish identity, which is itself the pretext for the narrative. As such, it works perfectly well.

What occurs when someone imitates (or tries to imitate) an accent – especially when that accent is associated with an identity different from the imitator? With which values, abilities, assumptions or powers does such an affectation traffic? You might argue that it represents a form of mockery, of domination through the mechanism of the stereotype; and indeed, the history of British popular culture has no shortage of examples of ‘funny’ accents (including the Irish) being used in precisely this way.

Another possibility might be to do with the fact that shanty singing has a strong performative dimension – it’s a form of singing in which physical action is crucial – and this means that the sailors were in some senses ‘playing a role’ when they sang the shanties as an aid to onboard work. The use of an Irish accent could have been a means of stepping out of a present moment that was full of difficulty and danger, and adopting instead a provisional identity (Irishness) which possessed a range of stereotypical associations (drunkenness, belligerence, and an ability to cope with gruelling physical labour) that were extremely useful in the circumstances.

In any event, Stan’s work testifies to the presence of a strong Irish influence on the mainstream shanty tradition. That influence is, however, extremely impure in terms of its background and scope; the shanty was in fact a thoroughly hybrid form, incorporating musical, lyrical and performative influences from a wide range of sources. As an example of this process, Stan cites the well-known shanty ‘Clear the Track, Let the Bulgine Run’:

Oooh the smartest packet ye can find

Ah ho! way-ho! are you mos’ done?

Is the ol’ ‘Wild Cat’ of the Swallowtail Line

Sooo, clear the track, let the bulgine run!

To me high rig-a-jig in a jauntin’ car

Ah ho! way-ho! are you mos’ done?

Wid Eliza Lee all on my knee

Sooo, clear the track, let the bulgine run!

The lyric of the most popular version cited here moves the action from Liverpool to New York and back again, finishing with a proposal of marriage to ‘Eliza Lee’. This shanty, Stan writes

was a capstan song, a favourite in the Yankee packets. It has almost the same tune as an Irish folk-song Shule Agra but the refrains have wording showing Negro influence. It was another typical mixture of Irish and Negro sentiments and is one of the many shanties that passed through the shanty mart of Mobile, in this case I should think the tune came from Ireland to Mobile, where the Negroes took it in hand and then at a later date it returned to sea with a few more alterations.

The ‘folk’ process Hugill proposes goes something like this: the ancient Irish song ‘Siubhail A Gradh’ (translating as something like ‘Walk On, My Love’) fetched up in Mobile, Alabama sometime during the Famine emigration of the 1840s and 1850s. The ballad may have been sung off-duty on the westward passage by expatriate Irish sailors, or the crew may have heard it being sung by emigrants in steerage. In any event, the melody was adapted by African-American and Irish work gangs on the railroad network that was springing up in the great hinterlands in the years before the American Civil War. (‘Bulgine’ was a slang term for a railway engine.) These versions made their way back to the port of Mobile where one such version was picked up by American and British crews plying the Atlantic trade routes. This version was in turn adapted for a variation on the ‘flash packet’ genre, celebrating the speed and prowess of the ships operating under one or another of the transatlantic Packet lines – in this case, Swallowtail. From ancient Gaelic love song to modern work shanty in a few easy moves!

‘Clear the Track’ is not Irish, English, American or African-American; it is, according to Stan, best described as ‘transatlantic’. His life’s work is testament to the fact that the process described here in relation to this particular example operates at large throughout the shanty canon, as different aspects (melody, language, accent, lyric, structure, performance, and so on) of one (Irish) musical tradition mutate when confronted with new circumstances. But what does this mean? How may we begin to map the significance of songs which only emerged as a freak product of capitalism, and only managed to survive in the first instance as an academic curiosity?

To answer these questions would take more time than is available here. But I think in conclusion that it’s worth considering the idea that Stan Hugill’s work testifies to the thoroughly hybridised nature of the emerging Atlantic world, and to the capital contribution of Irish migrant culture to that world. To propose an ‘Irish Atlantic’ in this way is to consider what Ireland and Irishness brings to the cradle of western capitalism, but also to insist that Irish culture only becomes truly meaningful in its confrontation with and thorough infusion with other people and other cultures.


  • John Belchem, Merseypride: Essays in Liverpool Exceptionalism (Liverpool, 2000)
  • Irish, Catholic and Scouse: The History of the Liverpool Irish 1800-1939 (Liverpool, 2007)
  • Georgina Boyes, The Imagined Village: Culture, Ideology and the English Folk Revival (1993; Leeds, 2010)
  • Avtar Brah, Cartographies of Diaspora: Contested Identities (London, 1996)
  • Alison Garden and Muireann Crowley, ‘Introduction: The Irish Atlantic and Transatlantic Literary Studies’, Symbiosis: A Journal of Transatlantic Literary and Cultural Relations, 19.2 (2015), 117-36
  • Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (London, 1994)
  • Stan Hugill, Shanties from the Seven Seas: Shipboard Work-Songs and Songs Used as Work-Songs from the Great Days of Sail (1961; Mystic CT, 1994)
    • Sailortown (London, 1967)
    • Shanties and Sailors’ Songs (London, 1969)
    • The Bosun’s Locker: Collected Articles 1962-1973 (Todmorden, Yorkshire, 2006)
  • Gershon Legman, The Horn Book: Studies in Erotic Folklore and Bibliography (London, 1970)
  • L. Lloyd, Folk Song in England (1967; London, 1969)
  • Cormac Ó Gráda, Black ’47 and Beyond: The Great Irish Famine in History, Economy, and Memory (Princeton NJ, 2000)
  • Richard Runciman Terry, The Way of the Ship: Sailors, Shanties and Shantymen (1921, 1926; Tuscon, AZ, 2008)
  • Tommy Walsh, Being Irish in Liverpool (Liverpool, 2011)

To open a PDF version of this essay, please click here | For event details, use this link

Sincere thanks go to Gerry from the Liverpool Irish Festival for this essay. We will be working with Gerry on other events and ideas in the lead up to and during this year’s festival, so if this has been of interest to you, keep your eyes out for more.

"Carpaccio of Giant African Land Snail", The Domestic Godless (detail only)

The Domestic Godless: Carpaccio of Giant African Land Snail

The Domestic Godless (Stephen Brandes, Irene Murphy, Mick O’Shea) have been together since 2003. Since then, it has been their mission to explore the potential of food (its taste, presentation, history and cultural values) as a vehicle for irreverent artistic endeavour and experimentation. Through recipes, installations and public presentations The Domestic Godless employ food as both a concept and a medium through which to convey humour, empathy and other qualities that distinguish art from purely craft. In support of their upcoming book the Liverpool Irish Festival present you with a short extract and encourage you to consider supporting their Fund it page for the publication of their first book The Food, the Bad and the Ugly.

Below is the recipe that Stephen has provided for your delectation. NB: The Liverpool Irish Festival neither supports or condones the breeding or adoption of Giant Snails (of any origin) for the purposes of fulfilling the forthcoming recipe. Intrigued? Read on!

The Domestic Godless: An Introduction to Irish ‘Pataphysical* Cuisine. Part One: Carpaccio of Giant African Land Snail

Ireland has changed remarkably over the past 30 years. While it often looks soul-searchingly inwards, it looks outwards too… westwards to the USA; eastwards and southwards to Europe and beyond as its cultural influence and absorption gets richer and richer.

The travelling Irish experience new cuisines and broaden their tastes. Global ingredients now occupy shelves in our shops. The past 30 years have seen people arrive to these shores from all over the world, settling and bringing their foods and techniques along with them…

This island has woken to the realization that it has a spectacular larder in its fields, its hedgerows, its seas and its woodlands and Ireland is producing world-class chefs who know how to use it.

At this point I must explain that we are The Domestic Godless, a thorn in the foot of Irish gastronomy, with an irreverent disregard for current fashions and trends; a culinary Golem. We have researched the darkest corners of the world’s culinary cultures to create recipes that teeter on the edge of feasibility and believability. Here’s one…

We admit that this has to be one of our strangest recipes yet and possibly not to everyone’s taste. The size of a farm-worker’s fist, the African Land Snail had been a much favoured dish by [Irish] missionaries and their converts on the African continent as a Lenten supper. First introduced to Carrigaline in County Cork, in 1878 by Fr. Ignacius Mulcahy, the gastropod consequently had a devastating effect on the local eco-system, reducing gardens and parkland to wastelands within weeks. During the ‘Emergency’ however, they became a reliable and popular substitute for lamb in stews, which helped manage their control to the point of extinction.

Today, Giant African Land Snails can be purchased from specialist retailers, and indeed bred domestically. They apparently make great pets, but this is discouraged if their purpose is for consumption. We have our own [snails] of course, all bred from the original


Our recipe exploits the fact that snails cannot digest sugar, but will eat it until it brings on anaphylactic shock as the sugar crystalizes in the veins and abdomen of the gastropod.

Firstly feed the snails on sugared almonds for 3-4 weeks. They are ferocious eaters and will go through about 5kg before shock sets in. They will slow down considerably (even for snails) before this happens. One could also just crack them open with a brick, but we want to keep the shell intact.

Now place them in a freezer for about 45 mins.

Remove and slice into 1.5mm – 2mm slivers, shell and all. You will need a circular tile cutter or a jeweller’s fret saw for this.

Lay the frozen slices in baking trays, and pour over a solution of 1 part salt & 2 parts lime juice to 3 parts water. This removes the slime.

Heat your oven to about 175ºC.

Carefully rinse the slices several times with fresh water, finally leaving a small amount behind in each tray. Cover with tin foil and place in the oven to steam for an hour or so. The body (foot) of the snail will shrink slightly in the process. Leave to cool to room temperature.

Normally, in most land snail recipes, the guts and stomach are discarded into a neighbour’s garden, but in this instance, the four week diet of sugared almonds produce within the snail’s vital organs, a sweet paste, not unlike marzipan.

Fig 2 "Carpaccio of Giant African Land Snail", The Domestic Godless
Fig 2 “Carpaccio of Giant African Land Snail”, The Domestic Godless

Arrange 3 slices on each plate, as in fig. 2 and remove the coiled shell leaving the meat in place (this can be fiddly). Make a coulis by reducing over a brisk heat 1 cup of fresh pomegranate juice, thinly diced shallots and a little honey. Sprinkle the snail with whole pomegranate seeds and pour over a little of the coulis. Serve at room temperature.


A note from Liverpool Irish Festival:

* ‘Pataphysics is a literary trope devised by Pére Ubu author, Alfred Jarry, who offered a short definition of ‘Pataphysics as being the “science of imaginary solutions”. According to Jarry, the apostrophe used here, in advance of ‘Pataphysics, is always added before the word to avoid a pun in French.

We hope you appreciate a touch of the surreal. At a time of heavy political debate, a touch of light refreshment always helps to clear the palette!

Image credit: “Carpaccio of Giant African Land Snail”, The Domestic Godless

Cameron McKendrick's Misterman headshot (black and white, close face portrait)

‘Misterman’ – Cameron McKendrick’s rise

The Liverpool Irish Festival strives to support emerging artists and talent. Last year, we were pleased to feature Scadán within our programme; a play that considered the role of female volunteers in the Easter Rising and Liverpool’s connection to the action.

Taking place in a former warehouse space, right on the waterfront, audiences were impressed by the multi-layered textures of Scadán, which incorporated historic documents, a live score, projections, songs and a strong female ensemble. Directed by Roisin Fletcher, a Liverpudlian with close Irish heritage, and performed by a cast of multidisciplinary Scouse and Irish performers, it seemed the epitome of what the festival aims to do; tell and celebrate Liverpool, Liverpool Irish and Irish stories.

This year, Roisin is back and – getting by with a little help from her friends – is ready to deliver Misterman. Written by contemporary Irish playwright, Enda Walsh, this one-man play outlines Thomas McGill’s descent in to evangelistic despotism, in which he determines to save his small town from its ungodliness.

Taking the lead in this play is Cameron McKendrick, who has considered how he has become today’s ‘Misterman’

A lot of people move away from home for university, only to remain for the length of their studies; but I knew – from the moment I stepped off that easyjet flight from Belfast to Liverpool – that I was here to stay.
There are a lot of comparisons made between the two cities, so maybe it is this familiarity that has made me feel at home all these years. The fact that all it takes is for me to speak about 5 words in my native accent and I receive the kind of attention enjoyed by a local celeb. That doesn’t hurt either! “Are you Irish!? Boss!”

Take a wee look around this city and you’ll soon find that the Irish aren’t the only ones to be flocking to these parts. On my course alone there were people from all over the country enjoying the hospitality of Scousers. As an actor this was a great resource; being able to immerse myself and pick up new, authentic dialects to add to my repertoire. My Scouse, for one, isn’t entirely offensive anymore!

Culturally this city is amazing, as well. There is always something going on for performers and makers; so as long as you’re getting involved in stuff, you’re more than likely going to meet the right people along the way to collaborate on your own ideas [with]. That’s how Misterman came about for us really. I met the director Roisin (Fletcher) at LJMU studying Drama. After graduating we went on to do the Hope Street* Emerging Artists Programme. Many of the people I work with now have been associated with Hope Street in some way and I believe this is where we really found the confidence to put on our own shows. Here we were introduced to Luke Thomas (Misterman’s musical director) and Laura Lomax, who is designing our set, along with Samantha Airey. Roisin [saw] the original production [of Misterman], starring Cillian Murphy, years previous. It had a massive impact on her and so she was eager to bring this new writing to more people.

When it comes to theatre companies putting on Irish plays, there always seems to be the same ones being churned out, again and again. While this is an obvious testament to the skills of the writers, we feel it’s time to produce fresh material and give audiences ‘new Irish classics’.

After reading Misterman myself I thought it’d be stupid to turn down the opportunity of playing this unpredictable and misunderstood character. You feel for him. Then you’re disturbed by him. This play is packed with wit, weirdness and wonder. I’ve never read anything like it and I believe audiences will walk away having been surprised and shocked with how Thomas’s complex mind works.

* Hope Street Emerging Artists Programme. Hope Street are a performance company based in Liverpool. Like Liverpool Irish Festival, they are members of Creative Organisations of Liverpool (COoL) and good friends of the Festival.

Misterman runs at the Invisible Wind Factory, Wed 31 May-Thurs 1 June 2017. Click here for tickets.

Philip Hayes with a number of his collages

Collage Creations

Liverpool based artist Philip Hayes has a collage exhibition in Unit 51 at, Baltic Creative, running from 28 November-9 December 2016. In this article we celebrate his links with the Liverpool Irish Festival and look at his use of collage to develop his thinking and help with his fight for wellbeing.

Philip Hayes, a leading Liverpool music figure and former founder of the Picket, a much missed music venue. In recent weeks, he has been telling us how he has used the power of art to bring his life back on track. We also know Philip as one of the co-founders of the Liverpool Irish Festival who helped to bring the festival to life, so what has this journey meant?

“I helped set up the Liverpool Irish Festival with John Chandler (ongoing Chair of the Liverpool Irish Festival) in 2003; it just seemed so obvious an idea to do this thing here. I commissioned a mural – working with the Liverpool Mural Project, which was painted on the exterior of my venue the Picket, celebrating the links between Liverpool and Ireland[. This] was sadly painted over [in] black whilst I was in hospital in 2013, an act of cultural vandalism, in my opinion. Today it is not visible, but may reappear once the elements have their way”.

He is aware of Irishness running throughout his work and particularly of how the sound of our voices has changed due to the unique relationship between Liverpool and Ireland and how this has impacted on the accent, music and creative output of the city. In Philip’s understanding, the rise of the Irish communities in the city transformed post-1840’s from Lancastrian into Scouse, from a plain monotone accent to a lyrical, lively and dynamic sound.

He wants to ensure that we do not forget how we got our sound and to acknowledge the Irish presence that has impacted the identity of Scousers in the city. His work depicts aspects of Ireland that come through because of the people he has worked with. Artists such as Elvis Costello (real name Declan Patrick McManus), George Harrison (a Beatle with Irish cousins), and Paul McCartney and John Lennon with direct Irish descent. Hayes says “my work would not be telling the true story of Liverpool musicians, without acknowledging the Irish presence and impact on the identity of Scousers”.

One of Hayes’s project is to create an album to raise funds to help support people who have minor and severe learning difficulties. He has booked recording studios and aims to get two or three songs recorded. He is also in talks with key music figures in Liverpool to expand the project, including David Pichillingi Liverpool Sound City; Kevin McManus, Curator at the British Museum of Popular Music (formerly of Liverpool Vision) and Chris Meehan, Sentric Music, publishing specialists to get the project off the ground.

Philip took to creating collages to help him with issues he was suffering with back in 2013, finding expression through their creation and using them to calm him once they had been produced, finding solace in the stories each of them told.

To help him get through his time spent at the different clinics he would ask staff to let him have his collages and they let him fill a room with them. Hayes used art as a way of focussing  his recovery time, helping him get to where he is now. One of his favourites is the Lennon collage, which he describes as “instantly recognisable as being all about him”. The album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, has been used by Hayes in his own therapy, in which he also adopted primal scream therapy to help him recover.

Hayes went under mental health treatment between 2013 and 2015. “When I went into Windsor House I was very ill. But I want people to know there is a way out when you find yourself in such a desperate situation – I am the proof of that and I’m thinking of writing my autobiography and calling it From Crocky To Tocky Via Hell In A Handcart”.

A collage called Good Samaritans, contains 3D objects and he would like to use this artwork to go along with the studio album mentioned above. The album aims to remove the stigma around mental health and raise funds for the Samaritans and other organisations, including SAFE in Bootle and the Belve (Belvedere Youth and Community Activity Centre) in Toxteth.

Philip Hayes’s Collage Creations opens at Unit 51 on Jamaica Street in Liverpool’s thriving Baltic Creative.

Phone number: 116 123 (UK) 116 123 (ROI) (free to call)

Article by Rebecca Brunskill, LIPA student with contributions from Philip Hayes.

Liverpool Irish Festival would like to thank Rebecca for the work she has done in creating this article and for her internship support. Thank you!

Bobby Sands mural (c) Stuart Borthwick

Listen to LIF

Hear the stories from LIF16 on the festival podcast.

Dr Paddy Hoey has spoken to some of the key speakers at festival events to hear what they have to say about Irish history, the notion of Irish-ness, about new works and stories.

Dr Stuart Borthwick talks about his love of political murals in Northern Ireland and his book ‘The Writing on the Wall.

Ian Lynch of Lynched talks about being in the best folk band working anywhere today.
Linda Ervine discusses learning Irish as a Northern Protestant and her film ‘What the Focal’.

Trad session at Kelly's Dispensary

Traditional Irish music: A short history of

Following conversations between Chris Kelly and the Liverpool Irish Festival, it was apparent that Chris’s knowledge of music was deep and bountiful. In the spirit of offering context to Irish culture and to increasing general understanding about its origins, pathways and future, Chris has drafted a short history on traditional Irish music, which we hope will give people some food for thought, names to look up and a context for why it is still so important to Irish communities today, not to mention its incredible impact on popular music around the world!

Traditional Irish music began as an oral tradition, passed down from generation to generation by listening, learning by ear and without writing the tunes down on paper. This practice is still encouraged to this day.
The traditional music played by the Irish came to Ireland with the Celts 2,000 years ago. The Celts were influenced by music from the East and, it is believed, the traditional Irish harp originated in Egypt.
The harp was the most popular instrument in ancient times and harpists were employed to play for the chieftains and to create music for the nobles. This was until ”The Flight of the Earls” in 1607 when the native Irish chieftains fled the land under threat of invaders. With the flight of their patrons to mainland Europe, the harpists were left to travel the country and play wherever they could. The most famous of these was Turlough O’Carolan (b.1670-d.1738) a blind harpist, composer and singer whose great fame is owed to his gift of melodic composition. Although not a composer in the classical sense, he is considered to be Ireland’s national composer. For almost 50 years, O’Carolan journeyed from one end of Ireland to the other, composing and performing his tunes.

Not until 1762 were the tunes written down for the first time and collectors began to travel the country compiling music that can still be viewed today. The largest collection of traditional and folk music in the world is in the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin.

Traditional music has travelled much further than the 32 counties of Ireland. It has travelled around the world with the country’s long history of immigration. It was during the time of the great famine of 1845 that vast numbers emigrated, mostly to the United States, bringing the music with them.

In 1920 Irish music had a revival in the States, when recordings were made for the first time. Michael Coleman’s fiddle recordings were to influence fiddle players in the States, Ireland and around the world for years to come.

The style of music was opened to a wider audience still, due to the influence of Sean O’Riada, who established a traditional ensemble, Ceoltoiri Chulainn, who were heavily influenced by classical music forms. The Chieftians were later formed by Paddy Moloney from that ensemble.

The main traditional instruments are fiddle, Celtic harp, Irish flute, penny whistle, uilleann pipes and bodhrán. More recently the Irish bouzouki, acoustic guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo have found their way into the playing of traditional music, mainly due to Sweeny’s Men and Emmet Spiceland in the late ‘60s, followed by Paul Brady, Andy Irvine, Planxty, De Danann, The Bothy Band, Moving Hearts and many others, too numerous to mention.

There has always been a large Irish community in Liverpool, and the surrounding area, and the music has been passed on from generation to generation through the likes of the original Irish Centre in Mount Pleasant (also known as The Wellington Rooms), with music lessons for all types of traditional instruments. Sadly, that venue closed many years ago, moving to St. Michael’s, just off of West Derby Road. The Irish pub scene appears of late to have had a bit of a resurgence and with folk clubs and pubs like The Caledonia and the annual Liverpool Irish Festival facilitating the ongoing tradition there is great hope of the tradition carrying on for many years to come.

All I can say, after all that is ”keep music live and support the venues that support live music”.

Christopher Kelly – Chris’s early musical influence was The Beatles. He got first guitar at the age of 13 and played in showbands (pop and country) all over Ireland until going to the States in 1969, returning after 6months. Chris came to Liverpool in 1971 and is still here, becoming involved in folk clubs after he and long-time friend John Marshall visited Maghull Folk Club in the early ’70s, mainly playing John Prine, Micky Newbury and Steve Goodman material, later shifting to traditional music. Chris and John have been playing together on and off ever since, despite John’s many years in Scotland and Wales. In these times, Chris has played in various bands including Cairde Ceol (Musical Friends), Cracker, Jig-a-Jig and has done duo work with Tony Gibbons and other solo projects. John returned to Liverpool over a year ago and Chris and John are back together (musically). They have put together a vast collection of traditional songs and tunes in that time, performing as Tippin’ It Up. Chris, John and some other musical friends are recording an album of original material which should be ready in late 2016/early 2017.

Tippin’ It Up are playing at a couple of the social seisiúns at #LIF2016, at the Everyman.

The official #LIF2016 playlist

Over the years, 14 to be exact, Liverpool Irish Festival has welcomed some wonderful musicians to the city. From Rusangano Family to Van Morrison, to Irish sessions in the Cali, to Ciaran Lavery, our appreciation and love of Irish music is as wild and diverse as the music is itself.

Liverpool and Ireland are brought together so sweetly in music, musicians exploring sounds, their culture, their identity, making friends and partnerships. Our ability to sit, write, listen, play, to dance and sing are just a  few of the cultural ties that twin us.

In 2016, we’ve invited one of the festival’s partners and friends, Mellowtone, to compile a Liverpool Irish Festival playlist. Featuring Liverpool and Irish artists, some who’ve played the city, some whose songs have inspired events, it reflects the rich diversity of Liverpool and Irish music.

Mellowtone says, “This playlist is curated by the Mellowtone friends and family. With selections from Mellowtone and the crew, artists on the label and our Ma’s and Da’s. We’ve chosen songs from our heads, our hearts and our histories.”

You can listen to the playlist here – it’s #LIF2016 on Spotify 

The full track list is;

Villagers – Becoming a Jackal
Sea Legs – Flow
Paul Brady – The Island
BP Fallon & David Holmes – Henry McCullough
The Prelude – Black Black
The Chieftans & Van Morrison – She Walked Through the Fair
Waterboys – All The Things She Gave Me
Dave O’Grady / Seafoam Green  – Whiskey
Lisa Hannigan – Snow
Van Morrison – TB Sheets
Damien Rice – Cannonball
The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York
Them – Baby Please Don’t Go
Divine Comedy – National Express
Luka Bloom – Dead of Night
Fionn Regan – The Underwood Typewriter
Ryan Vail – Wounds
June Tabor – Where Are You Tonight
Van Morrison – Gypsy Queen
The Dubliners – The Old Alarm Clock
David Holmes – Whistlin Down the WInd
The Undertones – Teenage Kicks
Foy Vance – Bangor Town
Paul Brady – Arthur McBride
The Frames (Glen Hansard) – Revelate
Rusangano Family – Heathrow
Claude Chavasse pictured

Chavasse: the lesser known story of a hero

A Liverpool writer will explain, in a lecture in Central Library on 17 Oct, how one of the British army’s most celebrated World War One heroes had a cousin who participated in the Easter Rising.

Oxford-born Noel Chavasse ( 1884-1917) was the only British soldier awarded the Victoria Cross twice in the First World War. A member of the Royal Army Medical Corps, he died of injuries received in the Battle of Ypres in August 1917. His cousin, Claude Chavasse ( 1886-1971) also Oxford-born, was one of the Irish nationalists rounded up by the British Army in 1916 in the aftermath of the Easter Rising.

Noel Chavasse moved to Liverpool aged 16 when his father, Rev. Francis Chavasse, was appointed as Anglican bishop of the city, living in the Bishop’s Palace, Abercromby Square. Regarded as the city’s most famous war hero, Noel Chavasse is commemorated in Liverpool with a park (near the Pier Head) bearing his name.  A large sculpture of Noel Chavasse,  made by local artist Tom Murphy, was unveiled in Abercromby Square in 2008, perhaps coincidentally, it is directly outside the University of Liverpool Institute of Irish Studies.

The exploits of Noel’s  cousin, Claude, are largely unknown in Liverpool, whereas in Ireland he achieved almost celebrity status, indeed – Brendan Behan is believed to have based the character ‘Monsewer’ in his play The Hostage on Claude Chavasse.

Claude first came to the attention of the authorities when he gave his name in Irish when stopped by a police sergeant in County Cork in February 1916. As the law stated that English had to be used when questioned by the police, Chavasse was arrested and spent two nights in Macroom Prison, where he alleged he was beaten for refusing to speak English. His relationship with the Bishop of Liverpool was mentioned when he appeared in court, but this was not enough to save him from being found guilty and fined £5.00. When he refused to pay he was sentenced to a month in prison.

The name Claude Chavasse then appears amongst those who were arrested by the British Army in the wake of the Easter Rising. He was held in prison for several days before being released without charge. He was then active in the War of Independence, during which he was again imprisoned and took part in a hunger strike. Chavasse took the Republican side in the civil war which followed. He was elected as the Sinn Féin representative for Galway at the organisation’s AGM in 1949 and remained active in the Irish language movement until his death in 1971

The Chavasse family was a very close one – Noel was engaged to another cousin, Gladys Chavasse at the time of his death in Belgium- so they would have been well-aware that Claude Chavasse, who was just two years younger than Noel, had supported the rebels against the British Army in Ireland.

“It was one of those unusual twists of history, to have two members of an upper-class English family serving abroad for the ‘freedom of small nations’ – one in the British Army in Belgium and one supporting the Irish nationalists fighting the British Army  in Dublin,” commented Tony Birtill.

Tony Birtill is a Liverpool-based freelance journalist and writer. He contributes regularly to the Irish Post newspaper and Irish language television and radio . He is author of A Hidden History : The Irish Language in Liverpool ( 2013) and teaches the Irish Language at St Michael’s Irish Centre, Liverpool. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists.

Picture courtesy of Claude Chavasse is pictured in the kilt. 

Image of Margaret Simey's quote "the magic of Liverpool is that it isn't England", seen here as inscribed on a pillar at the Museum of Liverpool

In my Liverpool home

‘The ‘pool feels itself closer to Dublin, New York, even Buenos Aires, than it does to London… it’s very aware of its own myth and eager to project it’, George Melly, jazz musician and artist, Revolt into Style, 1970

‘There is a great love and unity in this city, there’s a great feeling of togetherness which materializes in the Kop, where one thought spreads among the crowd … it’s not just going there to watch a football match it’s really a form of worship of a great city by the people’, Arthur Dooley, sculptor, 1972

The Liverpool Irish Festival celebrates the connections between Liverpool and Ireland through, walks, talks, theatre, film, music and art. In so doing, it acknowledges that the one of the dominant strands in the formation of the city was Irish immigration. The Office of National Statistics estimates that 50 per cent of the population of Liverpool has Irish heritage; whilst the Liverpool Echo puts the figure higher, at 75%. This ‘Irishness’ of Liverpool is often cited in accounts that try to explain Liverpool’s distinctiveness amongst English cities.

In fact, partly as a consequence, the ‘Englishness’ of Liverpool is frequently questioned. ‘Is Liverpool English?’ was Andrew Marr’s query recently on Radio 4’s Start the Week (broadcast on 26 Sept 2016 available on BBC Radio iPlayer). In the Museum of Liverpool there is an inscription on a pillar of a quote from Margaret Simey: ‘The magic of Liverpool is that it isn’t England.’

The strong identity of the city, which centrally involves – in the words of local blogger Ronnie Hughes – ‘a sense of place’, is the product of many influences, historical events and representations of the city (internal and external). It is this identity that has underpinned the support for the Hillsborough families for three decades. Additionally, this ‘sense of place’ underpins support for both football teams; it underpins the political distinctiveness of Liverpool and it underpins the warm reception being from Liverpool can evoke all round the world.

In this strong identity of place, how is it possible to disinter the exact contribution of the Irish, Welsh, Manx, Chinese, Somalian or Caribbean immigrants to Liverpool? Each has been notable and often it may have been the friction or conflicts between different groups that was much more significant in producing the city, than the notion that Liverpool has been one big ‘melting pot’.

I say this because Liverpool in the nineteenth century was a time of extensive immigration from Ireland. Importantly, this was also a time when Liverpool was the gateway for global emigration from all over Britain and Ireland, and for many other northern Europeans. Thus, it could be argued Liverpool bears comparison with New York more than any other English city. In both instances the throughput of the port was definitive for the local economy and for their perception as cosmopolitan places, both facing outward across the Atlantic.

In many ways the Irish roots of the Liverpool population are masked by an alternative identity: ‘being a Scouser’. Liverpudlianism is based on the perception of the city as unique. This identity is essentially a working class one, emerging from the history of a city made of various economic and political struggles and the experiences of a number of immigrant groups, of whom Irish Catholics were the largest.

The young people I interviewed in Liverpool when researching Irish identities in Britain (all of Irish descent) constantly itemised what was good about the city or gave an explanation of why Liverpool was better than its image. All of their comments revealed that pride in being from Liverpool is based on a conviction that the city is different from everywhere else. The roots of Liverpool exceptionalism lie within the city as well as amongst its detractors, elsewhere in (southern) England.

One basis of Liverpool’s exceptionalism has been the very high proportion of the population who are Roman Catholics compared with anywhere else in England, largely the result of immigration from Ireland. In Britain the only real comparator is Glasgow. However, even today, the proportion of Catholics (nominal or otherwise) forming the population of the Archdiocese of Liverpool – 46% – dwarfs that of the Archiocese of Glasgow (28%).

This religious heritage and the sectarianism that used to characterise the city (Liverpool was called ‘the Belfast of England’ in 1909) is another important aspect in both the oft-cited uniqueness of the place. It may help to explain why a strong local identity was a requisite of modernity for Liverpool. This identity needed to be one that people of different ethnic and national origins, religious backgrounds and ultimately different class origins could all subscribe to because – given local economic and political conditions – these social and cultural differences had sometimes produced violent conflicts.

When researching Irish identities in Britain, I found that for third generation Irish (i.e., those with grandparents born in Ireland) and certainly from the fourth generation onwards, the likelihood of the individual subscribing to a British or English identity was high. Liverpool was the main exception to this, a place where the local identity trumped the national options (English, British or Irish) for three-quarters of the young people who participated in the research (all of whom were third- to fifth-generation Irish).

In the USA, whatever degree of allegiance people have to their Irish origins they can opt to tick ‘Irish American’ on the Census form every ten years and ticking that box must mean many different things. In the very different political culture of the peculiar multi-national state that is the United Kingdom ethno-national differences have always carried more threat and considerable effort has been expended trying to contain them.

The Liverpool Irish Festival got underway in 2003 so now is in its fourteenth year. Ever since The Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998 one of its consequences has been an easing of the inhibition many people of Irish origins in England felt in celebrating their heritage in public spaces. In Liverpool those Irish origins are tied up not only in connections with Ireland but in the very fabric of the city and its identity – all of which is being celebrated from 13-23 October 2016.

Prof. Mary Hickman is Emeritus Professor of Irish Studies and Sociology, at the Irish Studies Centre, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at London Metropolitan University. A sociologist, focusing on migration, diaspora, ethnicity and race, Mary’s latest book is Women and Irish Diaspora Identities (2014). Mary is a Trustee of the Liverpool Irish Festival and the London Irish Centre as well as Chair of Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad.
Twitter: @MaryJHickman

Further reading (and watching!)
In My Liverpool Home was a poem by Pete McGovern. You can read the poem using this link. It has been sung as a song by many and can be viewed as performed by The Spinners, below.

The Union and European flags

Brexit: What now for the future of Britain and Ireland?

Britain’s recent months have been politically dominated by the fallout from the referendum which will radically alter Britain’s relationship with the European Union. Its oldest trading partner, Ireland, which was a central pillar of the Empire until 1922 and the Commonwealth until 1949, remains a member of the EU. Brexit -perhaps – means there is a question mark over how the nations will co-exist as the boundaries are redrawn.

Ireland effectively ceased being a British territory in 1949 with the Ireland Act that, most significantly, allowed Irish people to live and work in Britain as ‘non-foreign’, with rights not afforded other immigrants, such as those from Europe. There is now a question mark over these rights and the relationships between the two nations.

Northern Ireland voted 56%-44% to remain in the European Union, with many Unionists voting ‘leave’ on matters of British sovereignty and identity. But away from these issues of identity and sovereignty, there is a practical dimension that ‘leave’ throws-up concerning the business community: what about the return to a ‘hard border’ between Northern Ireland the Irish republic?

Since freedom of movement and residence for citizens of EU member states was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, and the development of the Peace Process, the Irish border (once a highly securitized frontier) has gradually become open. Armed military checkpoints and customs checks have disappeared facilitating greater trade and co-operation between the two states.

Any future re-established restrictions on freedom of movement and a hard border may have profound effects on north-south trade. Customs checks – a detested element of journeys north and south prior to the Peace Process – would necessarily be a requirement again depending on the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

The once fragile border economy, which has been rebuilt on retail and shopping, has seen vast numbers of people travelling from the north into the Republic for cheaper fuel. Greater numbers travel northwards from the south for cheaper household goods and groceries; both governed by the fluctuating exchange rate between the pound and euro currencies.

Towns like Newry and Enniskillen, which suffered greatly during the Troubles, have become reinvented thanks to freedom of movement. Belfast and Dublin, thanks to new and improved motorways are now little more than 90 minutes apart, having a huge impact on improving trade.

Brexit is likely to effect Northern Ireland, its developing Peace Process and trade in both the states on the island more than anywhere else in Britain and Liverpool will be one of the cities in the frontline, experiencing what happens to the relationship between the two nations.

Few other cities in Britain can claim to have such an Irish influence. Trading relations date back for perhaps a thousand years and direct Irish immigration, beginning from the early nineteenth century, is one of the central drivers behind the growth of the city.

Common bonds of language and shared culture won’t change regardless of what form Brexit takes. Liverpool is the city where Irish immigrants like Kitty Wilkinson and Agnes Jones helped revolutionise public health; where James Sexton and Jim Larkin transformed working class politics by organising workers and where authors like Robert Noonan and Pat O’Mara documented the working class life of immigrants.

In the second half of the twentieth century Irish women transformed the NHS just as generations of Irishmen worked the docks and construction sites. In the late twentieth century Liverpool became a place where Irish people came to university and stayed after graduation. As a result, cultural examples of Irish life, like the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and the Liverpool Irish Festival, are thriving with volunteers anxious to maintain bonds with home and celebrate our shared cultural history and experiences.

In the last 20 years the achievements of Liverpool’s top flight football teams and the all pervasive influence of the English Premier League has led Irish people to make regular ‘pilgrimages’ to the city and become major contributors to the city’s burgeoning tourism economy.

Ireland’s/Liverpool’s bonds with Britain go far beyond the possible effects of Brexit. They are long standing and profound. While Irish people will continue to live and work in Liverpool, we are more than simply employees plying our trades. Our spirit, our culture and our experiences are stitched into the fabric of Merseyside life. The Liverpool Irish Festival is a continuing recognition of this.

Dr Paddy Hoey
Enthusiastic podcaster and blogger, Dr Paddy Hoey lectures in Media and Politics at Edge Hill University. Former Liverpool Echo and Daily Post contributor, City Talk FM presenter and Hope University lecturer, he enjoys consulting for Laughterhouse Comedy and sits as a Director on the Board of the Liverpool Irish Festival.

Detail from the Artist Centre for Human Rights logo saying 'FOR'

The Artist Centre for Human Rights

A provocation from the Artist Centre for Human Rights, details of its manifesto and why it began in Liverpool

The Artist Centre for Human Rights was set up in Liverpool in the commemorative year of 2016 as an internationalist arts project that is both a cultural organisation and an evolving artwork. The Centre disseminates local cultural articulations of Human Rights through an international programme of artistic production.

We launched the Artist Centre for Human Rights in Liverpool as the city in which William Roscoe first advocated anti-slavery laws and campaigns. Roger Casement and Edmund Morel took up this cause again in Liverpool, by establishing the first internationalist human rights campaign in the twentieth century. We also acknowledge the energy and persistence of their multi-media approach to recruiting support and in educating people in the atrocities of the Congo Regime, particularly around the commodification of rubber in Europe. We work with artists and educational practitioners; environmental, cultural and community organisations to create and commission new artworks promoting Human Rights. The Artist Centre for Human Rights acknowledges the rights of humans to be based on a broader parity of esteem with the environment across the globe.

There are many instances of powerful relations between Liverpool and Ireland. To think of Irish connections in Liverpool is to think of Casement’s defiance in secretly funding his and Morel’s campaign to undermine colonial exploitation of indigenous peoples in the Congo. It is to think of people in Liverpool working in solidarity backstage in the days, months, years before the Easter Rising in Dublin. It is to think of the Abbey Theatre players in Liverpool the week before the Rising, performing Yeats’ and Gregory’s transformative play Cathleen Ni Houlihan; the following week some of those same artists conducted key roles in the operations of the Rising. It is to think of Irish refugees landing in their thousands at Clarence Dock in the 1840s to take residence in what Dr Duncan (Liverpool’s first Medical Officer of Health) called ‘the cemetery of Ireland.’ It is to think of Maud Gonne holding a public rally in Saltney Street in 1900. It is to think of The Gaelic League offices on Duke Street or the body of Donovan O’Rossa being carried for two miles ‘on Irish shoulders’ from the Prince’s Landing Stage to Nelson Dock on route from America to burial in Dublin. It is to think of those numberless Irish whose descendants live here today and who make up a large part of a city that voted to remain in Europe. As the Citizen says in Joyce’s Ulysses “and our eyes are on Europe.”

The ACHR pays homage to these legacies with the intention to refract the backward glance fully to a forward-thinking engagement with our present. As prisoner C.3.3, Oscar Wilde – writing De Profundis in Reading Gaol – recalled Wordsworth’s lines: “Suffering is permanent, obscure and dark / And has the nature of infinity.” In taking up the chance for a cultural revival in Ireland, artists like Yeats, Synge and Milligan took language as acts of resistance and defiance and as the setting for new projected energies in an assertion of Irishness, in a mode of cultural and social becoming. This Irishness stages a resonant model for all cultures, all places, all forms of independent belonging.

The Cassandra Echo is the journal of the ACHR; we commission new pieces that will disseminate human rights through artistic endeavor. The journal is an homage to the spirit of other internationalist discussions that have sought to give word to causes that act in the face of resistance: for instance, the Belfast journal The Shan Van Vocht set up at the end of the nineteenth century by Alice Milligan and Anna Johnston; or the Free International University forums set up by artist Joseph Beuys in the 1970s.

We call for discussion, conversation, engagement with international artists and organisations that refract core practices in society such as architecture, environmentalism, social infrastructure, art itself, literature, community activism and feminism. We work towards new commonalities in language, new localisms in international dialogue, progressive values and equalities.

Sean Borodale & Catherine Morris, co-founders
[email protected]

Catherine Morris (Liverpool Central Library’s first Writer-in-Residence) is writing Intimate Power: Autobiography of a City, montaging life-writing, photo-essays and community interviews, currently being made on location at resonant sites across Liverpool. Catherine is also Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool.

Sean Borodale works as a poet and artist, making scriptive and documentary poems written on location; emerging from a process of writing and walking. Currently undertaking a residency with Bluecoat, Sean’s also undertaking an oral recording of Ulysses in Liverpool.
This is a co-authored essay from Catherine Morris and Sean Borodale, cofounders of the Artist Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) and co-editors of The Cassandra Echo the ACHR’s journal