Category: News

Deborah Frances-White and The Guilty Feminist

The Guilty Feminist lineup at #LIF2018


Say My Name is the movie written by Guilty Feminist host Deborah Frances-White. It was filmed in Wales by Jay Stern and produced by Lisa Brenner for Electric Entertainment last year and has been selected for inclusion by the prestigious Cardiff Film Festival where it is competing in the Welsh Feature Film category.

Deborah will be attending the screening on Saturday 20 October at 11:30am and will be participating in a Q and A after the screening alongside the film’s star and producer Lisa Brenner.

Very sadly, this means that Deborah will not be able to host the planned Guilty Feminist recording due to take place in Liverpool as part of the Liverpool Irish Festival at 2:00pm on the same day. Despite her phenomenal abilities, she has been unable to master the art of being in two places at once.

But the audience in Liverpool need not be too disappointed. Deborah has arranged two hugely popular regular co-hosts to take the reins for her – Ireland’s Alison Spittle (“such a good-spirited nature that it’s nothing short of infectious”) and from Texas Kemah Bob (“filled with such confidence and overwhelming power”). They will be presenting a Guilty Feminist episode with all of the heart, humour and thought-provoking issues that you have come to expect. We know the audience will give them all their feminist support as well as supporting Deborah in her first feature film. 

Deborah promises to come back to Liverpool soon and is making plans to come back to next year’s Liverpool Irish Film Festival. 


Saturday 20 October 2018, 11:30am, University of South Wales (ATRiuM Building) 86-88 Adam Street, Cardiff CF24 2FN.  


Saturday 20 October 2018 2:00pm, Liverpool Playhouse, Williamson Square, Liverpool, L1 1EL


It’s the Travelling Life: A new exhibition of Liverpool’s Irish Traveller community

A new exhibition, curated by American artist Jona Frank, provides a rarely seen glimpse into the lives of women in Liverpool’s Irish Traveller communities today as well as snapshot of Irish Traveller culture from 25 years ago. The photographs, taken by Irish Traveller women and their children, provide an insight into a community – often on the receiving end of many assumptions and outside perspectives – showing a life of family and domesticity, captured during summer 2018.  

Shown in two locations, It’s the Travelling Life, is a collaboration with members of Liverpool’s Irish Traveller Community, Liverpool Irish Festival, Liverpool Mental Health Consortium and Irish Community Care. The relationship with the Irish Traveller community has developed from Irish Community Care’s ongoing work over the past two decades, developing a strong relationship and understanding of the community.

Jona Frank, Inside the Family Caravan (Tallaght, 1993)

The inspiration for the project was Jona Frank’s 1990s images of Irish Travellers in Tallaght, near Dublin. As that work turns 25, there was a desire to empower, instead of viewing them through a media lens or third party. Here, the community’s women document and tell their stories themselves. They chose to capture images of their day to day lives. Typically, focus is given to the lives of the men within Irish Traveller communities. Women -their domestic roles, family care, community rituals and routines- are not often given the same centre stage. Here, the images they have given us show the importance of family. Providing a sense of ordinariness they also hint at some of the darker aspects within the community, most notably the issue of mental health and suicide among young men and of the preoccupations and concerns of a marginalised community. A selection of works from Jona Frank’s 25 year old project will be shown alongside the 2018 pieces.

Jona Frank has curated the women’s photographs to best reflect the stories told by them. On seeing the photographs, she recognised the women had surpassed the brief to ‘tell a story that is important to you’ and were looking closely at their world. She said: “Setting out to do that may sound simple at first, but actually doing it is far from simple. Actually doing it requires a person to stop during their day-to-day tasks and think about what their story is, what their purpose is. It is celebrating the ordinary. It is celebrating a history and a course of life that others seem to quickly dismiss and disrespect. These women and children are taking a step back from being in their day-to-day to observe it, to look closely, to create a record and to share it with pride. That’s courage”.

It’s the Travelling Life project, 2018

As part of Liverpool Irish Festival, the project provides a platform for another strand of ‘Irishness’. Director Emma Smith says it is central to the ambition of the Festival to provide Liverpool Irish people with their own means to define their culture and voice. “Jona Frank is one of those empathic artists who has an ability to illuminate her subject’s heart and humanity. With this project we wanted to work with Jona to use her ability and capability to support community expression. The Liverpool Irish Traveller community is marginalised –generally and within the identity of Liverpool Irishness – so it important for us to recognise their unique vantage, provide space for their voices and support the artistic expression that came directly from them”.

For Irish Community Care, the project is part of their ongoing work with Liverpool’s Irish Traveller community. “We’ve built up a trust relationship with the families for over 20 years. We have worked with them, empowered them and listened to them to develop a greater understanding of how we can support them and in raising awareness of how important they are as a society. Women are the backbone of this community and provide a real strength within it but often don’t get a voice”.

Jona Frank, Tallaght, 1993. Image courtesy of the artist

Liverpool Mental Health Consortium, who organise the annual Liverpool Mental Health Festival, is committed to co-designing creative engagement around community wellbeing with members of diverse communities. Part of their remit is also to involve communities in researching the causes and effects of distress, and in implementing recommendations arising from the research. Development and Opportunities Lead, Claire Stevens, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting Irish Traveller women to share their stories with a wider public, to promote cross-cultural understanding, practical learning and creative, participatory opportunities. Thanks to all our partners on their project and, most of all, the women and families, who gave their time and energy to the project”.

It’s the Travelling Life will be exhibited at two venues in Liverpool.

At George Henry Lee’s the exhibition will open  from 18 Oct- 28th 2018 as part of Liverpool Irish Festival.

It will also be exhibited as part of the city-wide Liverpool Mental Health Festival ‘The Art of Falling Apart’ exhibition, taking place at The Brink from 11 October – 7 January 2019. The full Festival programme is at

The project is supported directly by each organisation and with specific funding from The Wellcome Trust, Arts Council England and Liverpool City Council.

#LIF2018 brochure revealed

Liverpool Irish Festival’s annual brochure is here. Physical copies are available in all the usual places around Liverpool. We hope you enjoy browsing our programme.

We know you have been patient. We know you want to buy your tickets early… and now you can!

We have been working all year to mount this programme, develop the theme and share it with you and now it is here! The brochure is now available here.

Accessible using the slider below, we recommend using this link as it also divides the brochure in to the various stories you can flick though. However, if you prefer to download a PDF version, you can do so here.

We hope you’ll prebook for some of the events and join us for the free ones. Particularly special to us this year are the launch at the Liverpol Irish Centre, Kíla (supported by Liverpool City Council‘s Festival Enhancement Fund and our Family activities.

We hope to see you at #LIF2018.

Please note: Schedule changes
Responding to Robert Tressell and Kitty will take place on Thurs 25 Oct NOT Wed 24 Oct as advertised in the #LIF2018 brichure and some listings. All other details remain unchanged. We apologise for any confusion.

Corrections to #LIF2018 brochure
The following amendments have been made to the programme or to errors cited in the #LIF2018 festival brochure:
Page 17: Priorland will no longer headline the O’Neill’s Hooley. A replacement band is being found and will be suitably lively and gregarious! We apologise for any disappointment caused.
Page 9: Paragraph 1 should have read ‘mental illnesses of those left behind’
Page 21: Both the Responding to Tressell and Kitty events were broadcast as being on Wed 24 Oct. This is incorrect. Both will take place on Thurs 25 Oct. All other details were correct.
Page 22: The Biggest Show in the Country was listed as Venue TBC and time 3pm. This has changed. This will now be at 11am at the Royal Court, bookable through
Page 24: Celtic Animation Film Festival: Web address should have read and the times have been amended from 11am-6pm to 1pm-5pm. Additionally, sincere apologies to director Eleonora Asparuhova for the incorrect spelling of her name.
Page 31: The Ticket Quarter article featured a typing error- the email address offered should have read [email protected] We apologise for this proofing error.

Deborah Frances-White and The Guilty Feminist

Liverpool Irish Festival 2018: celebrating the breadth of Irish culture

Liverpool’s cultural ties with Ireland come to the fore once again as the Liverpool Irish Festival returns, this year with special performances by The Guilty Feminist (in a dedicated festival podcast) and Kíla. We also celebrate a new partnership with Liverpool Literary Festival, the return of the Celtic Animation Film Festival and IndieCork and a new play by Lizzie Nunnery.

Taking place 18-28 Oct 2018 in venues across Liverpool, including Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, FACT, Liverpool Philharmonic, St George’s Hall, the Florrie and the Victoria and Gallery Museum, the programme, curated by Festival Director Emma Smith and partners, explores the theme of ‘migration’. Artists, performers, musicians, writers and filmmakers explore the relationship between cultural identity and place and how Irish identity, in particular, is changing globally, affecting how we understand ‘Irishness’ in the 21st century.

The hugely successful podcast (30m+ downloads), The Guilty Feminist, comes to Liverpool Irish Festival as part of its In:Visible Women programme and for its first visit to the city. Comedian Deborah Frances-White records a live podcast in front of an audience at Liverpool Playhouse, discussing 21st century feminism and the paradoxes and insecurities which undermines it.

One of Ireland’s greatest music acts, Kíla, come to Liverpool Arts Club for a tub-thumping, rip-roaring, freewheeling jig of a gig. Supported by Bill Booth, Kíla’s eight members come from different musical backgrounds, including trad, classical and rock, which blend into the bands furiously energetic sound. It bristles with energy and passion and will be an unforgettable night.

At the Everyman Theatre, Lizzie Nunnery presents her new play with songs, To Have to Shoot Irishmen, exploring the events around the death of Francis Sheehy Skeffington during the Easter Rising in Dublin, 1916. Directed by Gemma Kerr (Hitting Town, Southwark Playhouse) and produced by Lizzie Nunnery’s Almanac Arts, the play runs for three nights (25-27 Oct).

For the first time, Liverpool Irish Festival unites with Liverpool Literary Festival, celebrating the writers, both emerging and established, who continue Ireland’s rich literary heritage. Events include Eamonn Hughes’ fascinating exploration and reflection on his work with Van Morrison, navigating the songwriter’s representation of Belfast. This is a joint event with The Institute of Irish Studies.  

At one of Liverpool’s newest venues, OUTPUT Gallery, an artist will create a new work responding to the successful repeal of the Eighth Amendment of Ireland’s Constitution, granting new body autonomy in Ireland. The exhibition will run for the duration of the festival part of the In:Visible Women strand. 

In:Visible Women collage workshop, #LIF2017, Liverpool Blackwell's (c) E Smith c/o LIF

Exhibition call for work about Ireland’s Eighth Amendment

Call to artists for work responding to Ireland’s Repeal the Eighth movement and historic referendum vote, leading to 2018 exhibition at OUTPUT gallery.

Liverpool Irish Festival (LIF) and OUTPUT gallery have partnered this year to commission an artist to respond to the successful repeal of The 8th Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, which now allows the government to legislate for abortion and grants new body autonomy to people in Ireland.

We are inviting exhibition applications from Liverpool, Liverpool Irish, and Irish creatives born or based in Merseyside working in the visual arts, performance, film or any other media. With such a powerful subject at the heart of the exhibition, applicants might choose to make work about the historical consequences of the 8th Amendment, its emotional impact, empowerment, agency, or the cultural shift the repeal marks.

The exhibition will run 18-28 October 2018, the entirety of this year’s LIF, which is the largest and most diverse showcase of contemporary and traditional Irish arts and culture in the UK. The selected artist will receive £300 and OUTPUT gallery will cover the technical production of the exhibition, which will be promoted by LIF.

To apply, please send your idea for the exhibition, details, and any images of previous work to [email protected]. This open call will close midnight of Fri 31 Aug 2018. OUTPUT gallery will be wheelchair accessible but the bathrooms are not. Please get in touch if you have any questions relating to the brief or any access requirements.

Terms and Conditions

Please be aware Creative Call – Ts and Cs, which we – LIF and OUTPUT gallery – will use to help determine our selection. Please read these before submitting your response to this call. If you submit an edxhibition proposal, we will presume you have read and accept these terms and conditions.

Additional information

More details about OUTPUT gallery can be found at or on social media using the handle: @outputgallery
Lizzie Nunnery with award at the UK Theatre Awards

Lizzie Nunnery: A decade of creative friendship

To Have to Shoot Irishmen, a play written by Lizzie Nunnery -and produced by her company Almanac Arts– will feature as part of #LIF2018.

It will be the fourth siginificant piece of Lizzie’s work that LIF has shown in 10 years. So where did it all begin, where might it go and what has changed? We asked Lizzie (LN) to reflect on her friendship with us and what she thought about it all…

Over to Lizzie:

Over the past decade, Liverpool Irish Festival has been a good friend to me. An inspiring and supportive friend… but also a challenging one… The kind of friend that walks you to the edge of a cliff and says ‘jump’, but then gently reminds you that you’re wearing a parachute.

In 2008, the year of Capital of Culture, I was an enthusiastic and wide-eyed playwright and songwriter, fresh from my first production at the Liverpool Everyman. The play was called Intemperance, about an impoverished Liverpool Irish family and set in 1854 and had drawn the attention of then Festival Manager, Jake Roney. He met me in the charming noise of the old Everyman Bistro. With characteristic directness he asked me if I’d like to be Artistic Director of a multi-disciplinary arts event in the Concert Room at St Georges Hall.

I’d never been Artistic Director of anything in my life, but that didn’t seem to bother him. He wanted me to curate a night of dance, drama and live music about the links between Liverpool’s black and Irish community. His working title – taken from signs that used to hang outside pubs and boarding houses as late at the 1960s – was No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish. I was probably a little bit flattered, and a little bit naive, but mostly I was excited by the possibilities. So, over a couple of pints of Guinness(TM), the deal was struck.

What followed was a very intense few months – on a punishing learning curve – bringing together a group of ground breaking artists from disparate backgrounds; creating conditions for them to collaborate, shaping a night that would hit the audience in the head and the heart. So many moments from the night still burn in my mind. It wasn’t slick and it wasn’t polished, but it was full of feeling and ideas. Liverpool singer songwriter Ogo slayed the crowd with a rendition of a heartbreaking original song. Actress Ashing Leyne delivered a fierce performance of a new short play about the racist murder of black sailor Charles Wootton in Liverpool in 1919. Dancers Ithalia Forel and Maria Malone from Movema UK combined traditional Brazilian and Irish dance into a new piece of choreography performed to a soundtrack of percussion and spoken word. It was astounding how eclectic and yet cohesive it all felt. I remember sitting in the audience feeling breathless as I watched the dance piece. When the dancers stopped moving the room kept on spinning around them. So much felt suddenly possible as an artist in Liverpool in 2008 and Liverpool Irish Festival had truly invited me to the party.

Lizzie Nunnery, Zanzibar (c) Keith Ainsworth
Lizzie Nunnery at the Zanzibar (c) Keith Ainsworth

My friendship with the festival stayed strong over the years as an audience member. Each year I’d particularly look forward to the pub sessions and intimate unusual folk gigs. I loved how the festival reached in to the back snugs and social centres of the city as well as setting up camp in the shiny big spaces like FACT or the Philharmonic Hall.

Speaking of which… in 2010 came the second time LIF set me a frightening and wonderful challenge. The Irish Sea Sessions – thought up by then Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Hall, Simon Glinn, was part loose and lively session, part large scale gig. His plan was to bring together a big group of folk artists from both sides of the Irish sea; fifteen singers, guitarists, percussionists, pipe players, songwriters… All were to collaborate in a celebration of their shared musical culture and create a great big smasher of a gig. That I was one of those fifteen came as something of a shock. It was the kind of email I had to read and re-read. The list of other performers was formidable. Not only were there world-renowned players amongst them, but also the phenomenal ballad singer Niamh Parsons and Damien Dempsey, whose debut album I’d dissected endlessly through headphones as a student.

And I was going to rehearse with them; swap tunes with them; stand amongst them. No space for shyness. There was nothing for it but to step up to the challenge. It was one of the most tiring, exhilarating and educational weeks of my working life. By the end of it I was standing on stage at The Phil, leading a rendition of The Leaving of Liverpool, feeling as though I was flying; perhaps flying by the seat of my pants, but flying all the same. In a nice link, the original solo song I chose to perform was England Loves a Poor Boy, written for that St Georges Hall show back in 2008. When in 2012, I was asked to perform in the Irish Sea Sessions for a 2nd time there was a lovely sense of coming home; being welcomed back in.

And now in 2018 I stand poised to take another leap, with LIF there once again giving me that vital nudge. Having worked on my play with songs To Have to Shoot Irishmen for around a decade, it will be produced by Almanac Arts in association with LIF this autumn. The show opens in London (2 Oct) before coming to the Liverpool Everyman (26-27 Oct), just in time to join the fun of the festival.

Inspired by the true murder of Irish pacifist Francis Sheehy Skeffington by a British soldier during the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916, the new play explores fractured national identity and the chaotic legacy of British military intervention. It’s a story that bridges the Irish Sea. It’s a show that draws together song, drama, storytelling; that asks important questions and doesn’t flinch. What better home for it than Liverpool Irish Festival?

'To Have to Shoot Irishmen' lead image (detail only) (c) Andy Donovan
‘To Have to Shoot Irishmen’ lead image (detail only) (c) Andy Donovan

For more on the play, click here.  |

Tour dates and ticket links

Sue Rynhart singing on board La Malouine with Skipper Roy Kerr and technician from Adlib

La Malouine – an ode sung with real Rynhart

This a migration story about Sue Rynhart’s song La Malouine; written by an Irish women, about a French ship for a Liverpool performance on the #LIF2018 Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta Ship Stage…

Played on a beatifully hot day on the Mersey, aboard it’s namesake La Malouine, this song takes you on voice of sirens to oceans far away!


You can hear La Malouine here.

Lyrics: La Malouine

Summer young blows her along
A ship at sea
A dreamer flying free.

Tears of time, she sings her song;
“Hold us tight draw us away”
Tide is pulling
Ocean spray.

She’s every colour, she’s everything, she will make the water sing.
She’s every colour, she’s everything, she will make the water sing.

A distant light to Evensong
Ink blue mysteries grow long.
Starboard leaning
Swell and sway.
With the wind and sea she’ll stay.

Mother, Daughter, Ship is Queen.
Hold her tight and pull her in
On board La Malouine.

Who is she?
To the sea?
La Malouine.

Lyrics and music (c) Sue Rynhart, 2018. The song was recorded at Arad Studios in Dublin by Les Keye, with Charlie Moon on guitar and Sue Rynhart on vocals. Charlie also accompanied Sue at the Liverpool live performance as part of the Three Festivals event.

Sue Rynhart (SR) has been in Liverpool before. Her friend Ailís Ní Ríain suggested Sue contact the Liverpool Irish Festival (LIF), following her own appearance in 2016. From this point a fascination with the city and its connections has developed.

This is both a complex and a simple story; based on migrating ideas, developing long-distance friendships and creative trust; explorations in to the past and translations in to today. It is layered – as all relationships are – with varied meanings, snatched ideas and conversations, but this one has a creative flow that crosses the seas.

At it’s simplest it is about taking an opportunity and making it work.

Sue is known for her music. She has often written about water; about women and the female relationship with the world. With an elfin gait and a wide eyed charm Sue may look something approaching fragile, but she is spry and keen, strong and flexible. Lauded for her “songs that sound at once ancient and modern, with echoes of folk and early music, contemporary jazz and the avant garde, recalling Theo Bleckmann, Bjork and a hint of Joni Mitchell” (The Irish Times ****). She is cited as a “Beautiful vocalist…[with] wonderful composition” (BBC). “Sue’s atmospheric lyrics would all – I suspect – make fantastic reading as poetry even outside of their prime, intended musical context….She communicates her artistic vision in her songs with precision and immediacy, combining grace and energy while deliberately placing her voice within the context of sparsely scored, emotion-baring musical settings” (Folk Radio UK)… and for all of these reasons and more, we have wanted her to come back and work with us, ever since we met her in 2017.

Sue Rynhart set list
Sue Rynhart set list


When Sue first contacted us, we were (ashamedly) not aware of her slick, witty, charming music and disarming, kooky, ethereal sound. It didn’t take long to have us hooked. Tooing and froing about where we could place her in the programme and how to organise it all at the last minute – just weeks ahead of the festival launch – it soon became very obvious that Sue had to be part of our Visible Women showcase at the Liverpool Philharmonic. She – and double bassist, Dan Bodwell – held the audience, captivated. We stayed in touch.

Sue sent us a copy of her album Signals, a follow on from her album Crossings. We stayed in touch. We talked about how both albums linked to water and migration, our theme for 2018.

New contexts

We – Liverpool Irish Festival – were commissioned to find and platform work for the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta on behalf of Culture Liverpool/Liverpool City Council. We thought about Sue’s work. We were given a Tall Ship to programme.

La Malouine is a twin masted French Brigantine tall ship, registered in the Port of Dumfries in Scotland.

How wonderful would it sound on a ship, in the open air…how would it chime with the femininity of ships (they’re all named after women), of Sirens, of time… We got in touch.

Sue said yes. Not only did she say yes, she came back – in what seemed like moments – and said “I have written a song”. Over to Sue…

SR: “When I was invited to sing on board the Tall Ship La Malouine I was so excited. For as long as I can remember I have admired Tall Ships. I grew up by the sea in Dublin and it has always been a source of inspiration for me. It’s a great honour to be invited aboard this Ship and I wanted to express my gratitude to the Ship owner and to the Festival. I began researching the ship. I discovered that She was once called ‘Wilem’. I also found that she was originally registered in France, with her home port being Saint Malo. She is still French flagged, and her registration is for private charter, but her home port is now Dumfries in Scotland.

Sue's audience at the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta,complete with timpanology section!
Sue’s audience at the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta,complete with timpanology section!

“La Malouine is a non-profit organisation, and the crew take a lot of young people sailing, usually for no charge or for a small donation.

“I had already been humming a melody and felt words coming ‘La MalouineLa Malouine…Mother, Daughter, Ship is Queen…aboard La Malouine…’ then I thought ‘Aagh! What if I have the incorrect pronunciation?’

“I sent a slightly manic message to the to the contact email asking “does the ship’s name rhyme with Hallowe’en?”. Realising how bonkers that must have sounded to them, I quickly explained that I was writing a song to sing aboard La Malouine at the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta presented by Liverpool Irish Festival in Liverpool and needed to be sure that I had the correct pronunciation… An extra syllable – or one syllable less – would have thrown the metre off altogether and I was so happy with the lyrics that were emerging…

“I have to say the Captain and his Crew got back to me straight away and reassured me (very politely glossing over my out-of-the-blue, slightly bonkers tone!). I was in the flow of coming up with this song; I jotted down words and sounds; sang some of them and sang more words that came to mind.

“I had written words, which I was going to use in a spoken word intro, but when I started it, it sounded too dreamy; too wishy-washy.

“Then I imagined an electric guitar with distortion. My Dad is an excellent electric guitarist, so I went to my parent’s house and had a listen to my Dad playing all sorts of effects using vintage pedals. Thanks to my Dad, I found effects that were perfect for the intro and for the song throughout. It was very important to me that the song – and the Ship, in turn – would have a very strong introduction.

“The guitar at the beginning is full of power, presence and strength, there is a stoic quality to the theme and I thought this was very fitting. The rest of the song just flowed. I added in the guitar to play in canon – in parts to be playful like the wind in the sails – and for the most part to arpeggiate the chords. I wanted a big contrast between the distortion on the intro to a more gentle effect for the main [body] of the song, to give lots of space for the lyrics to be heard”.


Sue Rynhart: Sue’s debut album ‘Crossings (Songs for Voice & Double Bass)’ and follow up album ‘Signals’ have both received international critical acclaim from RTÉ Lyric fm, The Irish Times, the respected American website, The Independent and The Sunday Times UK. She has premiered works by many of the Composers from the Irish Composers Collective and the Contemporary Music Centre and and has performed on BBC Radio with the Choir of Christchurch Cathedral Dublin. Sue recognises the support she has received across various projects from the Arts Council of Ireland, Culture Ireland, the Improvised Music Company and Note Productions.

About the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta: The Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta took place in Liverpool 25-28 May 2018. The Liverpool Irish Festival featured quite heavily, with two days of programming on the La Malouine and in the National Museum of Liverpool‘s Martin Luther King Jnr Building in Albert Dock. The Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta is also a unifying race between three countries. It is a key event because it ties us to our neighbours – through time and tide. It helps to place-make each location by showing the world where we are on its map. The Liverpool Irish Festival‘s contribution to this event has been supported by

  • Liverpool City Council
  • Arts Council England
  • The Irish Government’s Department for Foreign Affairs.

Liverpool City Council logo - supporters of the Liverpool Irish Festival through their cultural investment programme

Liverpool 2018 logo denotes activities that sit beneath the Liverpool City Council's 2018 cultural programme.




Department of Foreign Affairs and Investment (Government of Ireland) logo - the DFA support us through their Emigrant Support Programme




Gerry on Hope Street (c) Karen Richards

From Ffrench to Liverpool-Irish, Gerry’s stories are about to be heard!

We asked long-standing Liverpool Irish Festival friend Gerry Ffrench to give us some information on her roots and current work, ahead of a performance of self-penned music and songs over at the Albert Docks for the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta (the late May bank holiday weekend 2018).

Gerry has sung in festival sessions and in 2017 played Master of Ceremonies for our Visible Women evening, over at the Philharmonic Music Room, introducing Emma Lusby, Mamatung, Sue Rynhart and Ailbhe Reddy. We regularly talk about the books that Gerry has planned, stories from her father’s life and the incredible influence of Irish history of Liverpool life.

Gerry is the winner of Folk Northwest’s talent showcase, which took place at Costa del Folk Portugal in 2017. A singer songwriter from Liverpool, Gerry has strong family links in Wexford and Mayo. She is a popular performer in folk clubs in and around Merseyside – and the North of England – as well as appearing at various folk and shanty festivals here and abroad. Currently working on her third full studio album of original songs in Angel Valve Studios Oxton (Birkenhead), Gerry uses the stories of ordinary people of the city – past and present – as an endless source of inspiration for her songs.

Gerry’s new album, Rivercity Echoes, runs as a succession of stories, intertwining Irish and Liverpool life. Rivercity Echoes will have eleven original tracks, all composed, sung and played by Gerry with almost every track telling a story. Through these stories, Gerry speaks of times gone, of love and loss and of today. Below is a breakdown of those stories, as described by the artist.

When Paddy Came Marching Home is about a whacky Irishman who in 1939 joined the Royal Navy, didn’t like it, so enlisted in the army while on leave, eventually fighting his way from North Africa all the way to Germany.

Do Your Washing for a Penny was inspired by the great Liverpool Irish philanthropist Kitty Wilkinson*, originally from Derry, who was instrumental in setting up wash houses in the slums of the city, after saving many lives during the cholera epidemic of the 1830’s.

* #LIF2018 features a play on this subject, by Carol Maginn called Kitty. To keep up to date with our programme (announced from summer), sign up to our mailing list. We usually send no more than one mail per month, rising nearer to the festival with event news. We never sell any data.

The Admiralty Regrets is the half-forgotten story of the Thetis Submarine disaster in Liverpool Bay. It was triggered by seeing 99 men’s names on the steps of the bell tower in Birkenhead Priory, right next to Camel Laird’s where the sub was built in 1939.

I wrote My Brother’s Shoes after seeing a pair of combat boots, left by a veteran, at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC seven years ago.

Dorothy Drew retells the story a popular traditional folk song The Callico Printer’s Clerk  – from the point of view of the female protagonist.

Bound For Glory was written after a fan suggested I check out the history of the Isle of Mann Packet ship The Ben Ma Chroidhe, which sank off the coast of Turkey during the first wold war.

And so it goes, although not all of my songs are about the past, I – like Santayana –  believe that “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

The Liverpool Irish Festival would like to thank Gerry for giving this exclusive insight in to her new album! What a treat for us! To find out more and to keep up with Gerry’s album release make sure to follow her on Facebook, search for “Gerry ffrench, Folk Singer” or visit her site:

A view up through a tall ship's rigging

Dublin, Bordeaux and Liverpool joined by song

The Liverpool Irish Festival has commissioned a song – from artist Rory Moore of Strength N.I.A – as a gift to our Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta city partners; Dublin and Bordeaux. Listen to the Three Festivals Theme Radio Edit and Extended Feature below using the playlist below.

Click for the Three Festivals Theme press release or read the full story below.

Click here to see our events listing for the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta.

Time and tide

Back in 2016, Strength N.I.A contacted the Liverpool Irish Festival to see if they could play as part of the LIF2016 line-up. As the Director of the festival, I began 13 weeks before the festival and can claim that things were hectic. The lead singer – Rory – was funny, tenacious and eager, but between us we couldn’t get the plans in place to find the fees for travel, venues, tech and the like.

We stayed in touch.

In 2017 we spoke again in the hope of making something work. Using the thinnest of budgets and the fattest desires we did it, but Storm Brian also swept the city and despite two excellent performances Strength N.I.A’s (seen by many online, too) we knew we wanted to achive more.

How then – and why – should we have persisted? Because that’s what art does. That’s what friendship does. It persists in the face of adversity and all experiences count! We all know – once you’ve met and established there is a spark to do more, you have to find the fuel and breathe the oxygen in to the thing to make the fire burn.

Knowing creative brilliance was not lacking – but translating great gigs in Ireland to other countries is hard – we started thinking about different ways to work collaboratively across the Irish Sea. So when the City Council approached the Liverpool Irish Festival to commission work for the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta a creative outlet arose…

LIF: “Do you fancy writing a song that Liverpool can gift to Dublin and to Bordeaux? It needs to come from a slightly outside perspective so Liverpool can appear in it, too, without being ego driven or self-deprecating. It needs to draw these three locations together and has to be radio friendly!”

Rory: “I’ll have a think”.

That ‘think’ has led to Strength N.I.A’s front man, Rory Moore, creating the attached song – a gift to our friends in Dublin and Bordeaux with love from Liverpool. It looks at some shared histories, cultural metaphors and country identities. It uses language and voices from each location and shares some of our social ideals around equality, brotherhood (tolerance) and liberty. In it we find electronic cadences that have played in each location; phrases that can be interchanged from our national characters and references to individuals that can be from no other place but their home.

Rory says:

“From the get go I wanted this piece to be fun, informative and playful. I knew I was going to be tackling some subjects that were politically charged and could lead me into sensitive and dark parts of history, so I didn’t want to come across as self-righteous! Music – after all – is a celebration and that was key to the foundation of this piece. My friend said I should write a Eurotrash anthem when I was in France earlier in the year; [then Liverpool Irish Festival called me] in the airport on my way back from France! I knew the time was right to indulge this fancy! The brief was interesting: somehow I had to tie Bordeaux, Dublin and Liverpool together in a 3 min song that could involve ships, wine, immigration, the ice age and the Moon. Brilliant I thought!”.

There’s so much that the guys have put in to this. There are poems and voices, historical facts and samples, shanties and individual voices. There are reference points throughout it which make it unique, flavourful and funny.

Song of the sea

Things you should look out for:

  • Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s poem, Liverpool, which was issued in Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrapbook in 1833
  • References to Olympe de Gouges – a French Revolutionary who scribed the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen in response the its male counterpart, adopted by the National Assembly two years previous! Executed for her ‘crime’, her legacy is an ongoing contribution to social issues still playing out today
  • The Scouser in the piece is a true Scouser, ‘Tommy’, who lives in Derry. The word ‘Scouse’ comes from the Northern European dish ‘Lobscouse’. As Rory reports: “it was a stew commonly eaten by sailors, which became popular in seaports and docks such as Liverpool; God only knows what was in it! There were riots in England around the 18th century, because labourers demanded to be fed bread and cheese (seen as inherently English) by the land owners [and they] refused to eat potatoes and porridge [seeing} them as inferior foods (unlike the Irish and Scottish)!”
  • Commissioned shanty singing and violin playing
  • Electronic dance music has specific reference points in each of the cities, but in Liverpool it is an obvious reference to Cream
  • Ireland, Great Britain and continental Europe we all joined up until the Ice Age passed and the Middle Stone Age. Depending on varying research It is estimated that we parted by the waves between 6,500 and 6,100BC.

So how did Rory do it? The story is almost as interesting as the song! Rory says:

“I began listening to old sea shanties and sailors songs to get a feel for the high seas. I then began reading about the origins of Liverpool as a sea port. I knew this would be interesting, but I was horrified at what I discovered. Liverpool had a major contribution to the enslavement of 11 million people from the Africas. The poem part in the song – by Letitia Elizabeth Landon – is strangely ironic. As beautiful as the poem is, most of the great ships were on their way to entrap and destroy people’s lives in Africa. Another ironic factor is that most of the Liverpool council members of that time where involved in slavery and owned slaves in the West Indies, America and South America.

“When I began reading about Bordeaux I was astonished to discover that there had been a Celtic settlement around 300 BC called the Liturgies Vivisci who traded in wine which they produced themselves, but more interesting still, I thought was a chapter in French history about a lady called Olympe De Goude, whom was sacrificed for her feminist stance during the French Revolution, which – ironically – was supposed to put the people in control of their own lives! There are historic struggles from the dawn of civilisation, but – one thing is for sure – they have mostly been concerned with male status and not women, so I re[dressed] a bit of history in the song and added her into the mix!

“I used a working-class, Dublin man’s voice in reference to immigration and tied the whole thing together through my research of the last Ice Age, when Ireland, England and continental Europe were one. Because there were so many parts to the brief I merged [them] like a collage, always bringing it back to unity and solidarity; I hope it comes across that way anyway.

“I then recruited a bunch of fellow Irish men (who more or less live as pirates in Derry!) and asked them to attend a studio session where we all had a good laugh and sing along to the track.

“I sampled some violins to give it the Irish feel and built the club sounds around the violin samples.

“I hope I have fulfilled my commission brief and look forward to hearing it on the radio and to attending the Three ships festival in Liverpool or Dublin. Look out for us at future festivals and in the words of [Robespierre’s famous motto] “LIBERTE, EGALITE, FRATERNITE!”.

As outlined above, the song – now called The Three Festivals Theme has been through different iterations, reminding the Liverpool Irish Festival of the various straplines Liverpool have used over the last decade to describe ourselves. These remnants cling to the internet, like barnacles on a ship’s hull, and give layers of meaning to this year’s ‘Liverpool2018’ platform; ‘European Capital of Culture’, ‘The World in One City’ , ‘One Magnificent City’… each moniker striving to show our inclusion, diversity and pride. Perhaps ‘Liverpool2018’ does just that. Simply. This year we don’t need to qualify Liverpool – we’re understood now. It’s where we are and the time we’re in.

A parting wave – slán; adieu!

The Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta – a unifying race between three countries – is a key event because it ties us to our neighbours – through time and tide. It helps to place-make each location by showing the world where we are on its map. Rory’s Theme helps provide a fun gateway to this position for non-sailing landlubbers as well as masters of the sea. We hope you all enjoy it, from within or from outside, this is a fun nod to our mutual and differing histories, with lots to explore.

The Three Festivals Theme has benefitted from funding from the Liverpool Irish Festival via its support from

  • Liverpool City Council
  • Arts Council England
  • The Irish Government’s Department for Foreign Affairs

Liverpool City Council logo - supporters of the Liverpool Irish Festival through their cultural investment programme

Liverpool 2018 logo denotes activities that sit beneath the Liverpool City Council's 2018 cultural programme.






Department of Foreign Affairs and Investment (Government of Ireland) logo - the DFA support us through their Emigrant Support Programme facebook/LivIrishFest | Twitter @LivIrishFest | #madfortrad | #madfornew | #invisiblewomen | #LivIrishFest | facebook/strengthnia | Twitter @strengthnia | #irishbands

Rory Moore is songwriter with Strength N.I.A. Described as ‘werewolf pop’, the band describe their sound as “woolly and deliberate”. They write tracks using bass, organ, words and beats. From Derry, the band have recently released celebrated album Northern Ireland Yes and featured on Steve Lamacq’s and Gideon Coe’s BBC Radio 6 shows and Frank Skinner’s Absolute Radio music show.

The Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta too place in Liverpool 25-28 May 2018. The Liverpool Irish Festival featured heavily, with two days of programming on the La Malouine and in the National Museum of Liverpool‘s Martin Luther King Jnr Building in Albert Dock.

Strength N.I.A
Strength N.I.A (c) Conor McFeely
Liverpool Mental Health Consortium + Lunatic Fringe logo

Wellbeing Survey 2018

Improving health and wellbeing is at the centre of what many of our key partners – such as Irish Community Care and the Liverpool Irish Centre – do. As an arts and culture festival, we are aware that engaging in creativity can significantly improve both for individuals, communities and the locations they are based in. We are working with the Liverpool Mental Health Consortia in 2018 to find out more about the communities we serve, speak to and engage, to find out how arts and culture is helping health and wellbeing. If you have five to ten minutes, we’d greatly apprecate you completing this online form.

Later in the year, we will be working with Liverpool Mental Health Consortia on contributions for the Liverpool Mental Health Festival (featuring the Lunatic Fringe) and Liverpool Irish Festival. To keep up to date with up coming events, please ensure you are signed up to our mailing list, using the SIGN UP function, here.


London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign speech bubble logo

In:Visible Women and the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign

As regular readers will know Cara Sanquest of the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign introduced the Liverpool Irish Festival to this organisation and to the Abortion Support Network (see Mara Clarke’s piece, here). Cara also introduced us to Hannah Little, a London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaigner, from the Republic of Ireland. Here, Hannah tells us a little about how she became involved ahead, of her speaking at the In:Visible Women day (more details below).

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Hannah Little – London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign

The truth is I never really felt Irish until I left. Growing up I had not considered how my long red hair, thick Dublin accent and chatty demeanour would qualify me as a walking Irish stereotype. When I moved to London I learned the significance of my nationality in encounters with new friends and colleagues. What I saw simply as my personal characteristics – being friendly, sociable and a little forthright – others viewed as typical traits of “the Irish”. I was happy to discover that we were generally viewed quite positively. Before long, I became comfortable with the feeling that I embodied the idea that Ireland was a nation of lively, approachable people.

This new-found national pride was called into question when I heard about the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012. Savita, a 31-year-old woman from Galway, had died from complications arising from a septic miscarriage after being denied an abortion. Following repeated requests for a termination, her husband and family were told it was not an option “because Ireland is a Catholic country”.

I felt the urge to gather with others and mourn her shocking and tragic death. Lighting a candle outside the towering grey Irish embassy in Knightsbridge, I was forced to reconsider the positive image of Ireland I was promoting abroad. If abortion is recognised as basic healthcare around the world, how could an otherwise healthy woman die in hospital in my home country? The enduring influence of Catholicism in Ireland had suppressed medical wisdom and as a result, Savita had died an entirely preventable death.

As support for a referendum on the issue of abortion in Ireland began to gather momentum, I decided that rather than watching from afar I would try to play my part abroad. In 2016 I was part of a team of Irish ex-pats who organised a London solidarity event on the day of the March for Choice in Dublin. Hundreds gathered outside the Irish embassy to send a clear message that the diaspora were also calling for a full repeal of the eighth amendment – a constitutional change that could enable increased access to abortion in Ireland.

I met a group of likeminded people that day and together we went on to form the London Irish Abortion Rights Campaign. Since then, our group has grown to over 1,500 members and boasts a team of over 60 volunteers working on a daily basis. We campaign for access to free, safe and legal abortions across the island of Ireland through fundraising, direct action, lobbying of politicians and building international awareness of the issue through the UK media.

With a referendum on the Eighth Amendment now imminent, the next few months are crucial for the Irish pro-choice movement. As we saw with the result of the referendum on same sex marriage, Ireland is ready to break free from Catholic conservatism and adopt the twenty-first century values of inclusiveness and acceptance.

Irish people do not need to identify as pro-choice to appreciate that current legislation is harming Irish women*. The United Nations has repeatedly stated that Ireland is in breach of human rights by denying its citizens access to basic healthcare. I hope that by voting for increased access to abortion, Ireland can go some way to redressing the tragic injustice of Savita’s death and no doubt countless others.

Only when Ireland allows women to have full control over their own bodies will I be proud to call it home again.

(*) trans, and non-binary people

London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign

The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign calls for the repeal of the 8th amendment from the Irish constitution (ROI) and campaigns for access to free safe legal abortion in Ireland and Northern Ireland. They are the London branch of the Abortion Rights Campaign in Ireland, and a member of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment. | |  Handles: /londonirisharc /ldnirisharc

Abortion Support Network

Abortion Support Network provides financial assistance and accommodation to those travelling from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man for abortion procedures. Funding is available on a case by case basis, depending on financial need and availability of funding. Individuals are asked to contact ASN before booking travel as they can also advise on the least expensive clinics and methods of transport. ASN provide confidential, non-judgmental information to anyone who contacts them via phone or email about travelling to England for an abortion, as well as information about reputable providers of early medical abortion pills by post, which they also provide information on. Press and non-urgent enquiries can be made to Mara Clarke, Founder and Director of ASN here:

Mara Clarke at [email protected] + 44 (0) 7913 353 530.

In:Visible Women

In:Visible Women takes place on Fri 27 Oct 2017, as part of /LivIrishFest at Central Library. Book tickets here:

Abortion Support Network logo

In:Visible Women and the Abortion Support Network

In February the Liverpool Irish Festival attended the Irish Government’s Global Forum in Dublin. There we met Cara Sanquest from the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign. Cara has clear and communicable convictions; an intellect matched with eloquence and a crystalline ability to speak to people of all ages articulately and with compassion…in a room of international civil servants, business leaders and social welfare providers Cara’s voice stood out. It was clear we needed to speak – what Cara said we believed our audiences would have opinions on and our artists would have responses to. We wanted to  as well as a contemporary voice we wanted to carry forward.

Between us, plans for In:Visible Women developed. As a result of our conversations, the Liverpool Irish Festival were introduced to Mara Clarke, founder and Director of the Abortion Support Network. Mara, like Cara, is erudite and clear – her charity has seen what poor abortion law can create and has born witness to some harrowing cases and life stories. She knows the individuals and is aware of the serious difficulties laws and ‘old school’ values create. Her life is lived in the liminal space between was is ‘lawful’ and what is ‘moral’…between governments…between families and between opinions. Mara is very clear on what is needed and works tirelessly for funds, support and understanding

Since our initial conversations, much case law and legislation has passed about abortion, much of it in rooms where the Abortion Support Network have been present. We discussed London-Irish ARC and ASN being part of an afternoon of discussions and set the dates. Sadly for us, the pressures on ASN – at a  time when legislation is shifting and mass movements are forcing change – have meant Mara has not been able to join us for In:Visible Women and so instead, to share more about the organisation, we commissioned Mara to write a statement about its work. The statement will be read as part of the In:Visible Women day, but for those interested in its work, we are also producing it here.

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Mara Clarke and the Abortion Support Network

The Abortion Support Network ( is a grassroots charity. We do three things:

  1. we provide practical advice about the least expensive way to arrange an abortion in travel in England and information about the two reputable providers of early medical abortion pills online
  2. we provide money towards the £400-£2000 it costs to travel and pay for an abortion
  3. if required we secure and provide overnight accommodation in volunteer homes.

People often ask why we started Abortion Support NetworkASN to our friends – in 2009. We say, how can this be the question? Surely the question is why in 2009 are entire countries still denying women and pregnant people access to safe legal abortions? When will people reason that making abortion against the law doesn’t stop abortion? To clarify the answer to this, it doesn’t. It stops safe abortion. It stops abortion for poor women. It stops abortion for people who can’t leave their country – women with children and no childcare; women who need visas to travel; women who can’t get out from under the watchful eyes of abusive or controlling partners or parents.

Since turning on our phone in 2009, ASN has heard from almost 4,000 clients.

There is no typical client. We have heard from women as old as 53 and girls as young as 13. Many of them already have children. These were women in abusive relationships; women living in homeless shelters; women addicted to drugs; women with serious mental health issues, women pregnant as result of rape; women with serious medical conditions that pregnancy would complicate and women who had been told that their wanted babies had catastrophic foetal anomalies.

There are four things all ASN clients have in common:

  • They were pregnant
  • They didn’t want to be pregnant (or had a wanted pregnancy turn unviable)
  • They were poor
  • And not a single one of them thought they would ever be calling us.

Though we’ve heard some incredibly harrowing stories, ASN is clear with our supporters and funders that we don’t believe there is a hierarchy of abortion. We never prioritise one client over another. We don’t ask our clients how they got pregnant or why they want abortions. We don’t even ask if they are women and we know that we have helped a handful of trans, gender dysmorphic and/or intersexual clients. Our only criteria are financial need and our availability of funds.

Women with money don’t have to justify their reasons for having an abortion, so our clients don’t need to either.

Abortion Support Network is an abortion fund. We exist because we think “I can’t afford an abortion” shouldn’t be the only reason someone becomes a parent. We are the people who deal in the human cost of making abortion against the law.

Abortion Support Network

Abortion Support Network provides financial assistance and accommodation to those travelling from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man for abortion procedures. Funding is available on a case by case basis, depending on financial need and availability of funding. Individuals are asked to contact ASN before booking travel as they can also advise on the least expensive clinics and methods of transport. ASN provide confidential, non-judgmental information to anyone who contacts them via phone or email about travelling to England for an abortion, as well as information about reputable providers of early medical abortion pills by post, which they also provide information on. Press and non-urgent enquiries can be made to Mara Clarke, Founder and Director of ASN here:

Mara Clarke at [email protected] + 44 (0) 7913 353 530.

London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign

The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign calls for the repeal of the 8th amendment from the Irish constitution (ROI) and campaigns for access to free safe legal abortion in Ireland and Northern Ireland. They are the London branch of the Abortion Rights Campaign in Ireland, and a member of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment. | |  Handles: /londonirisharc /ldnirisharc

In:Visible Women

In:Visible Women takes place on Fri 27 Oct 2017, as part of /LivIrishFest at Central Library. Book tickets here: