Category: News

4* play arrives at Liverpool Irish Festival

After receiving four-star reviews for its London premiere at the King’s Head Theatre, a new play about Irish arranged marriages transfers to the LIVERPOOL IRISH FESTIVAL 2017 for its out-of-London premiere at The Capstone Theatre.

A new act set in Ireland has been written especially for the Liverpool Irish Festival and the production company has teamed up with Merseyside folk duo Jo Pue and John Walsh, who will be playing live Irish folk as the audience enter and during the interval.

This witty and moving new play, set in London in 1956, will be performed at The Capstone Theatre for two nights only at 7.30pm on Monday 23 and Tuesday 24 October. An open Q&A with the writer and cast will follow each performance.

Inspired by the writer’s grandmother who had an arranged marriage, Body & Blood, by Lorraine Mullaney, tells the story of an Irish girl who arrives in London in 1956 looking for her sister, who has run away from Ireland to escape an arranged marriage to a man “with a face like the Turin shroud”. 

But, instead of finding her sister, Aileen meets Jimmy, Uncle Colm’s young drinking and betting partner. Jimmy shows her a new side of life, full of freedom and possibilities. Will Aileen choose this new life or return to Ireland and make the sacrifices required to stay true to her roots?

The cast includes Pamela Flanagan as Aileen, Sorcha Brooks as Pegeen, Shane Noone as Jimmy and Ivan Murphy as Colm.

Here are some extracts from the reviews

“Mullaney’s play is a great framework for a detailed and unique exploration of Irish immigration the UK and the particularly unsavoury choices foisted on young women in this era.” The Reviews Hub

“It was a wonderfully refreshing evening of theatre, where one is moved and also comes away feeling like you’ve genuinely learnt something new and important.” London Pub Theatres

Performance dates and times 

Body & Blood presented by Unclouded Moon Productions at the Liverpool Irish Festival

Monday 23 and Tuesday 24 October at 7.30pm, followed by Q&A with the cast and writer

The Capstone Theatre, 17 Shaw Street, Liverpool L6 1HP

Tickets at £12/£10 + booking fee at

Top family fun for half term in Liverpool

Liverpool Irish Festival coincides with half term in Liverpool this year, and there’s plenty to do with families this year. It’s the 60th birthday of Liverpool Comhaltas, celebrating Irish culture and heritage, there’s films, the annual family day at the museum, children’s author Carmel Kelly, a special family weekend and, of course, the rip-roaring Liverpool Irish Festival family ceilidh.

The Secret of Kells: Empty Spaces Cinema

25 Oct, 2pm-3.30pm, Handyman Supermarket, 461 Smithdown Road, £4/£3

The Secret of Kells (Cert PG, 78mins) is an animated fantasy film in which magic and Celtic mythology come together in a riot of colour and detail that dazzle the eyes.
It is a sweeping story about the power of imagination and faith to carry humanity through dark times. Directed by Tomm Moore (Newry, NI) and Nora Twomey (Cork, ROI). Join Empty Spaces Cinema at The Handyman Supermarket for a pop-up film festival celebrating Irish cinema with a mixture of movies that look at Irish life.

Family Day at the Museum

28 Oct, 10am-5pm, Museum of Liverpool, FREE

Celebrate the Liverpool Irish Festival with family and friends in a day incorporating music, talks and activities for everyone to enjoy, across the day. Delivered in partnership with National Museums Liverpool, with contributions from Liverpool Comhaltas (celebrating their 60th anniversary) Melody Makers and the Institute of Irish Studies at University of Liverpool this is a true highlight of the festival, where culture sharing, enjoyment and conviviality are at the centre of all we do.

Across the day, there will be various activities, including: Carmel Uí Cheallaigh/Kelly (Galway, ROI) reading from her Gaelic and English children’s books in the morning; Liverpool artist Alison Little will run mask making workshops throughout the day; Pop-up Gaeltacht is an informal affair, where an Irish language speaker will be present in order that anyone wishing to share a few words (cúpla focal) of Gaelic can and is welcomed to do so. @PopUpGael. It also forms part of a wider Family Weekend programme, which includes a Children’s Hour with Carmel Kelly and a Family Céilí.

Liverpool Comhaltas and Liverpool Céilí Band evening

28 Oct, 7.30pm, music from 8pm, Liverpool Irish Centre, FREE
Join Liverpool Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and the Liverpool Céilí Band in celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of Comhaltas in Liverpool. Entertainment by Liverpool Comhaltas musicians – past and present – as well as some special guests.

Children’s Hour with Carmel Kelly

29 Oct, 10.30am-11.30am, Liverpool Central Library, FREE

Carmel Uí Cheallaigh/Kelly (Galway, ROI) is a children’s author and picture book creator, writing in Gaelic and English. Her motto is “Picture books are for everyone”.
A librarian herself, Carmel’s early works are an introduction to Gaelic for the young. Working with inspiring illustrators, they brings words to life on the page. This is an opportunity to hear her breathe life into the words of books such as Goldilocks and the Three Pigs to Hallowe’en favourite Spidey.

Family céilí and Comhaltas’s 60th celebrations

29 Oct, 2pm-5pm, Liverpool Irish Centre, £5/£2

The Family Céilí is one of the most popular family events at the Liverpool Irish Festival and this year returns, at a new location which welcomes families to join Liverpool Comhaltas in the spiritual home of the Irish community on Merseyside, the Liverpool Irish Centre (6 Boundary Lane, Liverpool L6 5JG). Bring family, friends and your dancing feet to join the fun and have a go a learning some Irish céilí dances, complete with live music from Liverpool Comhaltas. No previous experience is necessary as full instructions will be given, from a great dance caller.

Finns Hotel Ceilidh Band: Fundraising dance

3 Nov, 7.30pm-11.30pm, £5, Ullet Road Unitarian Church

Finns Hotel Ceilidh Band will play – for one night only – fundraising for Irish Community Care. Finns Hotel is a long established, but recently dormant, ceilidh band which started during the miner’s strike in the 1980s.
Irish Community Care works across the Liverpool City Region; in Cheshire and Wigan and Greater Manchester, too. Irish Community Care supports Irish and Irish Traveller people through times of uncertainty, trouble, hardship or isolation. We make sure people have a decent place to live and are safe and well. We ensure that they settle well in the community, whether as new arrivals in the country/area or from prison release, maximising their income through training, employment and welfare benefit entitlement and helping them to feel part of and connected to local communities.

All money raised will contribute to this much needed work.

A new history of the Liverpool Irish

A new book on the history of Liverpool Irish will launch at LIF2017.

‘In Hardship and Hope’ by Greg Quiery tells a narrative history of one of the largest European migrations in modern history and how Irish culture has shaped Liverpool.

Liverpool’s Irish heritage is well known. A large proportion of the city’s inhabitants boast Irish ancestry. A new book, written by social historian, musician and guide Greg Quiery presents a narrative history of the community. Launching at the Institute of Irish Studies during the Liverpool Irish Festival, the book describes the struggle for social and political acceptance in Liverpool by the Irish immigrants and the impact of the city’s Irish heritage on Liverpool’s modern culture.

From Newtownards in County Down, Greg Quiery moved to Liverpool from Belfast in 1974. He is a former fellow at the Institute of Irish Studies, a board member of the Liverpool Irish Festival and Chair of the Liverpool Great Hunger Commemoration Committee. ‘In Hardship and Hope’ charts the rise of Liverpool’s Irish population, from the first merchants in the 16th century to ‘Lyerpole’ to the steady migration after the Act of Union in 1801. As the Irish economy declined, but its population rapidly expanded, Liverpool welcomed an increasing number of Irish migrants. As the Irish famine reached its height in the 1840s, it is estimated 2.3 million Irish emigrants arrived in Liverpool.

Delving into the socio-economic, political and cultural impact of this population shift, the story is occasionally bleak, exploring slum housing and poverty, ongoing sectarian conflict, anti-Catholic sentiment, social reform, the impact of faith, riots and disturbances. Anti-Irish sentiment continued into the 20th century, particularly in 1909 and into the 1930s. As xenophobia swept Europe, Liverpool was not immune. The Liverpool Review described the Irish as “a real alien menace” in 1934.

The book examines how the Irish influence contributed to the modern Scouse identity. Irish nationalism and its strong ties to the Labour movement and the Labour Party in Liverpool, the role of the Liverpool Irish in the War of Independence laid the foundation for shaping modern Liverpool’s revolutionary state of mind. “An anti-establishment attitude …has survived in Liverpool … ever since”.

With the arrival of Merseybeat and the flourishing of Liverpool’s Scouse identity, a strong affection for Ireland remained in its second and third generations. As sectarianism declined, Liverpool and Everton football clubs each commanded a greater allegiance from both Catholics and Protestants than former sectarian institutions. As is noted, both Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II visited the city’s cathedrals in 1978 and 1982 respectively.

In the words of Dr Kevin McNamara, former Labour MP and Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, shortly before his death in August 2017: “(This book) is that unique combination of carefuI and popular scholarship. (Greg) pulls all the strands of the complicated history of the Irish in Liverpool and district together in a few hundred pages of easy reading”.

Mary Hickman, Emeritus Professor of Irish Studies and Sociology at London Metropolitan University writes: “From poverty to politics (the book) covers most aspects of Irish Catholic experiences in Liverpool and many of the most significant characters”.

Commenting on Greg’s book, Professor Frank Shovlin, Head of Department, The Institute of Irish Studies: “Covering 500 years of Irish interaction with Liverpool, nobody is better placed than Greg Quiery to unpick and elucidate the intricacies of that long relationship. Unparalleled in his expertise on the Liverpool Irish, a great friend of the Institute’s, and an historian with deep reverence for our forebears, Greg provides a wonderful addition to our knowledge of this city with this marvelous new volume”.

Greg Quiery: “Having arrived in Liverpool in the 1970s I was surrounded by people sharing their living history and stories of Irish heritage. There’s an importance in remembering our history, the way migrants were treated, often marginalised in poor housing and poverty. By the 1990s, Ireland’s popular culture meant that past discrimination was forgotten, but migration continues to be a significant force in our world today, which is why the documentation and understanding of the Liverpool Irish remains so important.”

The launch of ‘In Hardship and Hope’ takes place at 6pm on 23 Oct 2017 in the Eleanor Rathbone Building, in partnership between the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool and the Liverpool Irish Festival.

In:Visible Women – let’s talk about women

A new strand at Liverpool Irish Festival gives a platform to the voice of women in art, academia, political debate and history. Exploring the issues women face in the UK and Ireland, both historically and in contemporary society, the strand will see key events focusing on different discussions and encouraging the audience to reflect on the challenges women face. It is an important moment for women politically and culturally, in the UK and Ireland, with continued discussion on visibility, gaze, political and sexual rights, including abortion. With 11 women per day travelling from Ireland to England for abortions, some in Liverpool, this an opportunity to join the discussion. In the first year of In:Visible Women, the key events include:

In:Visible Women, Illuminating Debates

27 Oct, 9am-5pm, Liverpool Central Library, £5/£4

History can, too often, reflect on men and their stories. In:Visible Women begins with case studies of Liverpool Irish women from history, exploring their role and society. In the afternoon, the discussion shifts to political debate including the campaign to Repeal the 8th, abortion legislation, marriage, faith and gender equality.

A full day’s schedule will be available. Artists Casey Orr and Alison Little will take part.

Visible Women – New and powerful women in music

27 Oct, 8pm-10.30pm, £14 + 7.5% booking, Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room

An evening of exceptional female talent from Liverpool and Ireland. Four acts celebrate contemporary music and the women making it. With modern takes on traditional songs, self-penned tracks and exceptional instrumental talent, the night is hosted by Gerry Ffrench, a popular local radio star and touring musical artist in her own right. The line-up includes sets increasing in length from Emma Lusby (Limavady, Co Londonderry), Mamatung (Liverpool), Sue Rynhart and Ailbhe Reddy (both from Dublin), who headlines.

Orla Guerin, Front Lines, Fault Lines and Deadlines – 30 years of Chasing the Story

26 Oct, 6pm-7.30pm, Eleanor Rathbone Building, Free

Orla Guerin became the BBC’s Egypt correspondent in 2013. Since then she has reported from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Tunisia and Libya. Organised by Institute of Irish Studies, in partnership with Liverpool Irish Festival, this free event will see her discuss her life and work.

The Lily and the Poppy

28 Oct, 3pm-4pm, Free, Museum of Liverpool

This strand of work between the Liverpool Irish Festival and the Institute of Irish Studies, features two high profile Irish women, speaking about reconciliation and living peacefully in conflict (chaired by Professor Pete Shirlow, Director of the Institute of Irish Studies).

Elisha McCallion was the first Mayor of the new Derry City and Strabane District Council, on its formation in 2015. She brought together statutory and community agencies in Derry to advance proposals for Crisis Intervention Services, to address the gap that exists for those feeling isolated and in crisis due to mental health issues. Elisha was elected to the Northern Island Assembly in March 2017, holding the seat previously held by the late Martin McGuinness. In June 2017 Elisha made history by winning the Foyle seat in the Westminster election, from the SDLP who had held it since 1983.

Dawn Purvis was a Member of the NI Assembly from March 2007-May 2011, representing East Belfast. She was appointed as head of the Progressive Unionist Party in 2007. In 2011, Dawn left politics and became NI Programme Director with Marie Stopes International(MSI), opening the first integrated sexual and reproductive healthcare centre in Belfast.  She is currently CEO of a housing charity.

Body and Blood

23 and 24 Oct, 7.30pm-10pm, £12/£10 + booking fee, The Capstone Theatre

Body and Blood is a new play exploring a buried cultural history – arranged marriages in Ireland. Inspired by writer Lorraine Mullaney’s grandmother who had an arranged marriage, Body and Blood is a dark comedy that tackles a tough subject with humour and live music.

It’s 1956, and young Aileen comes to London looking for her sister, but instead finds a new life of freedom and possibilities. Will Aileen choose this new life or return to Ireland and make the sacrifices required to stay true to her roots? And will she discover why her Uncle Colm refuses to return home? Body and Blood explores the conflicts and culture clashes resulting from migration and the pull of traditional Irish values, highlighting how far Ireland has come since the 1950s.

Zine Workshop – Spread the word and repeal the 8th

25 Oct, 1pm-4:00pm, £1 on arrival for materials; donations accepted for Abortion Support Network, Blackwell’s/Liverpool Blackwell’s (bookshop)

How can we use our creativity to influence others and affect change? Blackwell’s Liverpool will host a workshop looking at zines and posters as activism. Using collage, attendees will handmake booklets and posters to photocopy and distribute to friends, whilst discussing what UK citizens can do to help people seeking abortions in Ireland. Everybody is welcome. Some materials will be provided, but please bring along anything you would like to use. Run by Liverpool Blackwell’s, in partnership with the Liverpool Irish Festival.

Sorcha Brooks, Pamela Flanagan as Pegeen and Aileen in Body & Blood (c) Unclouded Moon Productions (web)

No farmer wants a barren wife

What is a wife without a child? Incomplete? Worthless? Childless – or childfree?

In rural Ireland in the 1950s such a woman would almost certainly have been scorned as “barren” and her husband would have been within his rights to pack her bags and send her back to her family in disgrace.

This is the cultural background to a new play Body and Blood, which premieres at the Liverpool Irish Festival in October 2017. Here, the writer, Lorraine Mullaney explains how she came to write the play.

*     *     *     *     *

“She’s no good to me now,” said Bridie Keenan’s husband, as he returned his “barren bride” to her parents. “No farmer wants a barren wife. I have two sisters in the house to feed already.”

Poor Bridie. Sent home in disgrace to face the humiliating status of “barren bride”. But, instead of rebuking Bridie’s husband for his cruelty – or blaming him for his own lack of fertility – the local gossips in the Post Office blame the bride’s parents.

“They waited till she was 30 before making a match for her. Matches should be made when the girls are young,” they say. “Then there’s plenty of time to make a good family. If Bridie’s parents didn’t have the dowry, they should have sent her away to find work.”

*     *     *     *     *

This harsh reality forms the lives of the characters in Body and Blood. The play is set in 1956, a time when many marriages in rural Ireland were still arranged by matchmakers and the girls matched to local farmers from the age of 15 onwards. Irish farmers often deferred marriage until they were well on in years so they needed much younger wives to bear them sons to work on the farm and inherit the land to keep the family name alive.

The family of the bride entered a discussion process, organised by the matchmaker, in which dowries were balanced against the land and livestock of the potential groom. A ritual called “the walking of the land” was part of the process. In this ceremony, the groom walked the father of his desired bride around his land to show him what he had to offer his daughter through marriage. Once the dowry and cattle had been negotiated and the match agreed, they would mark the occasion with a celebratory meal, for which geese would be slain and whiskey and porter bought.

Once married, the girls often found themselves living on remote farms with animals to be fed, bread to be baked, bacon to be boiled, cattle to be milked, and turf to be cut. All amidst the driving rain and – if you’re living on the side of the mountain as the characters are in Body and Blood – the relentless rolling mist.

It’s not surprising that travelling to England became an attractive prospect for some girls. Body and Blood tells the story of a young Irish girl, Aileen, who comes to London in 1956 searching for her runaway sister, who fled rural Ireland to escape an arranged marriage to a man with “a face like the Turin Shroud”. But, instead of finding her runaway sister, Aileen finds new freedom in London and a romance with Jimmy. Which way will she turn? Will duty win over desire?

Image: The author’s parents on their wedding day, London 1960.

My mother also came to London in the late 1950s from County Cavan, and one of her stories was the inspiration for this play. She loved the West End, where she worked as a chambermaid in the hotels, until she met my father, from County Sligo, and they got engaged. My parents married in London in 1960. No dowries or cows exchanged hands.

When my father’s mother came over from Ireland to meet her new daughter-in-law, she didn’t approve of the engagement. She told my mother: “I came to my marriage with a dowry and cows but you’ve come to yours empty-handed.”

My mother told me this story when I was a child and I found it shocking. Growing up in 1970s London – in a Reggie Perrin-style suburb of 1930s semis and men in navy blue suits catching the 7.57 to Waterloo – it felt like a story from centuries past, or a distant culture on the other side of the world. How could a country that was so close in distance be so far away in culture?

Image: The author's parents on their wedding day, London 1960.The author’s parents on their wedding day, London 1960.

Irish matches were designed to keep the land in the family name and they were very much a product of their time: an era when duty to land, family and country came before personal freedom. They weren’t necessarily forced marriages and returning so-called “barren brides” to their families was at the most brutal end of the spectrum. At the other end must surely have been many happy marriages, perhaps with more realistic expectations than those with more romantic beginnings. And some of today’s methods of meeting a likely partner have their own brand of brutality with their snap judgements and swipe-and-reject culture.

When I was promoting a shorter, earlier version of this play in North London over the summer, I handed a flyer to an Irish girl who was sitting outside a pub on Upper Street, Islington. We got chatting about how far Ireland has come since the days of arranged marriages – or matches. Finally, she laughed: “I wish they still had arranged marriages at home. Trying to find a man in London is a nightmare. I need all the help I can get.”

Get involved

If you have a story about arranged marriages you’d like to share, contact Lorraine on [email protected]. Lorraine will collate the stories gathered as research for a book. Your story will not be published without your express permission.

Lead image: Sorcha Brooks and Pamela Flanagan play the mother and daughter in Body and Blood.

Show details

Body & Blood – by Lorraine Mullaney is – presented by Unclouded Moon Productions at the Liverpool Irish Festival, co-produced with Sorcha Brooks. Mon 23 Oct and Tues 24 Oct 2017, 7.30pm followed by Q&A with the cast and writer, at The Capstone Theatre, 17 Shaw Street, Liverpool L6 1HP. Tickets at £12/£10 + booking fee. Ticket line (freephone): +44 (0) 844 8000 410

 More information

About arranged marriages in Ireland

Arranged marriages in Ireland continued well into the 1970s.  The brides’ dowries were balanced against the land and livestock of the men they were matched with. Marriages were arranged by matchmakers and the girls could be as young as 15. Irish farmers often deferred marriage until they were well on in years so they needed much younger wives to bear them sons to inherit the land and keep the family name alive. A matchmaking festival held during the month of September in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare on the west coast of Ireland has been running for over 150 years (more info here).

About Unclouded Moon Productions

Unclouded Moon Productions develops and produces new plays that tell stories about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. The plays explore universal themes in a way that is entertaining, engaging, and thought provoking, with a particular focus on Irish culture and its impact on the lives and pathways of generations of Irish men and women.

[email protected]

Jane 1 006 (web; detail only) (c) Alison Little


Jane was commissioned by the Liverpool Irish Festival, from artist Alison Little, as a contribution to its work about In:Visible Women. It is a fictional piece of writing, created to help readers consider the effects of sexual violence towards women. Although it will echo some experiences, it is not ‘the definitive story’, nor is it specific to a real individual. We raise this not to diminish its value, but to assure readers that no survivor’s story is being misused. This piece is also supported by an artwork, which will be on show during the In:Visible Women day (Central Library, Fri 27 Oct 2017, £5).

Images of Alison’s art work are used throughout this feature. Featuring the torso of a woman (formed from delicate paper strands, echoing the fragility of womanhood), the shape is held together by clear, surgical plastic. This main shape, through which the womb can be identified, has labels that spill from its sides. These labels indicate the powerful responses a women might consider after a sexual attack, services or choices that may be available or the labels placed upon her by external bodies. These labels are combined, showing how complex the messages are about personal freedoms, service access and support. They include lines such as “clinical violence”, “stigma and silence” and “liberty”. Whether witnessed in a forest or on a gallery floor, the haunting image of this woman, dismembered and left behind, is symbolic of the treatment of women facing difficult questions about their future today.

Due to the sensitive content relayed in the following piece, relating to sexual violence and rape culture, we advise reading on with caution.

Simply Jane

Jane awakens. Her eyes bolt open, so much so it feels as though her upper lashes are laid flat against her eyebrows. The eyes almost detach from their position as the globes project up towards the ceiling, her pupil’s forefront in their position. Wide awake in panic again from the last eight weeks and four-days since it happened.

Although a chilly night, as they often are in County Cork, she was sweating intensely. Her groin was wet and the undersides of her flowering breasts were drowned in perspiration. She feels down between her legs, wishfully hoping that the damp may be ‘Me Auntie Bid’ finally arriving, six weeks and approximately three days late. She could only feel perspiration, no thicker substance, her optimism fades away as she faces the reality of being with child.

Still anxious, twisted in her bodily position, she begins to think about it again; what happened on that ill-fated night eight weeks and four days ago. She was at a sixteenth birthday party, not far away, just the next village. It was her best friend’s shindig, they had all brought what beer, cider and wine they could get hold their hands and one of the travellers had jigged in with a bottle of Poitín.

In her innocence Jane had got tipsy on the drink, then tipsier, finally slipping into inebriation. One of the older fellas had been dancing with her. She didn’t really know who he was, he must have been from a village in the opposite direction. As she became a little stilted in her motion, he placed his hands on her hips, then guided her towards the open front door. As the cold air had hit her she began to sober up. On his suggestion they went to sit in the barn.

As they sat on some crates he began to tell her she was a ‘Wee Doll’ and how the blue of her dressed matched her eyes. After brushing his wet lips quickly across hers he produced an unopened half bottle of Jameson’s. He opened the lid and took a quick swig before passing it over to Jane: ‘Come on have some’, enticing her into becoming drunk again.

The next thing Jane can remember is that he is on top of her, back flat against the concrete as he fumbles around her dress as he tries to remove her knickers. Jane tries to squirm and say no but he pushes himself into her, she can’t move as he protrudes into her virginal body.

After he had finished, he moved to one side and appeared to fall into a drunken slumber. Jane manages to stand slowly, edging out of the barn, away from the light and noise from the party, down long country lanes, bushes each side, moon half visible, night owls coo-ing in the distance, to her village, her front door, her room, bed, her fear.

…Article continues after the slide show…

She lies in that bed tonight, thoughts rushing through her mind about her one sexual encounter. The one she had not wanted and the one which had left her bearing child. She tosses over in bed again, her mind engulfed with thoughts about how to end this ordeal.

Abortion pills? She could order online, but are they safe? What if she gets caught having them delivered? It was such as small village, the Post Man knew everybody and the Post Mistress was always chin-wagging and may even open the package.

Her parents finding out seemed bad enough, but she could even be locked up by the Garda. She could travel to England or the Netherlands; a cheap flight from Ryanair could get her to Amsterdam. Can she get enough money for the operation?

She had no-one to talk to. Her friend who had sprung the party had found her knickers and the barn and all the girls at school seemed to know that something had happened, she felt like they were calling her a ‘Floosie’.

She wanted a ‘babby’ one day. It was his baby she didn’t want. Every day she lived in fear of seeing him again, smelling him again. Even the remnants of her Dad’s malt from his glass brought on the urge to vomit now. The vision of him and the memory of her inability to move as he forced into her innocent body… She thinks of how this baby would remind her of him. It could grow up to look like him, possibly even act like him.

She turns in bed again. She had no choice. She couldn’t have this baby, but how and when could she terminate the pregnancy? An owl, outstretched, screeches in the distance. She envisages the black eternity of the sky under its expanse the owl looking down on her as a minuscule speck; alone amidst the wrongs of the World which make up human existence.

Jane 2 040 (web; detail only) (c) Alison Little
Jane 2 040 (web; detail only) (c) Alison Little

Services and support

If you have been affected by the contents of this piece, please consider consulting one of the services below:

Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (RASA) – this is a Mersey based support service, rather than a national service. Please see below for more on wider support services +44(0) 151 666 1392; [email protected] If using email, please be mindful of the security of your account and other people’s access to it.

NHS – Sexual assault and violence services are available in most UK cities. To help to locate a service near you, the NHS have a service locator, which you can access using this webpage (successfully accessed 18 Sept 2017):

Abortion Support Network – if you – or a friend – requires access to abortion support services from Ireland, Northern Island or the Isle of Mann, the Abortion Support Network may be able to assist – To call from Northern Ireland +44(0)7897 611 593; from Ireland +44(0)15267370 (calls only, no texts) and/or from the Isle of Man +44(0)7897 611593 or email [email protected] If using email, please be mindful of the security of your account and other people’s access to it.

Victim Support can offer assistance with how to handle reporting a crime as well as helping you through the legal procedures of pursuing a charge.  For more details of how to use these particular services, use this link (successfully accessed 18 Sept 2017).

If you are supporting someone you know to have survived a violent, sexual encounter, there are some interesting and useful points in this online article, from The Everyday Feminist (successfully accessed 18 Sept 2017):

This is not an exhaustive list of services available or resources you can access, but we hope it may serve as a start point, where needed, for anyone experiencing, supporting or hoping to assist.

About the artist

Alison Little is an artist based in Anfield in Liverpool. She has also worked on a number of large scale commissions including Go Superlambanana, Go Penguin, Cheltenham Horse Parade and more recently the Nottingham Biennial. Smaller works are available to purchase from Arts Hub 47 on Lark Lane. Alison says: “I was conceived an artist and have spent the moments since birth developing my practice, something which will continue throughout my life”. You can find out more about Alison and Arts Hub 47 using this link.

The Liverpool Irish Festival would very much like to thank Alison for these two revealing, compassionate and sensitive pieces of work. From a random email out of the blue and through just a few interactions, the development of these pieces has been fast, informative and activated. Thank you Alison.

LivIrishFest2017 to host inaugural Celtic Animation Film Festival

Liverpool Irish Festival is to host the inaugural Celtic Animation Film Festival this October, celebrating established animators of Celtic heritage and emerging animators from around the world.

As part of the festival, there is also a new Celtic Animation Film competition, showcasing short animated films made in Liverpool, Ireland or other Celtic regions.

The film festival will showcase storytelling related to Celtic identity, myths, cultural history and personal tales from Celtic animators around the world.

The “festival within a festival” will take place on 22 Oct, during Liverpool Irish Festival (19-29 Oct 2017) and will involve screenings and competition awards ceremony at 81 Renshaw Street in Liverpool.

The inaugural awards are divided into three categories, Student Short Film Award, Professional Short Film Award and International Short Film Award. The panellists include Matthew Gravelle – Award winning animator and lecturer at University of South Wales and Jared Taylor, Programme Director Animation, Director of Undergraduate Studies of the School of Design, Edinburgh College of Art.

Once dubbed the “Celtic Tigger”, Ireland’s animation industry has been an award-winning and high profile arm of its blossoming film industry. Critically acclaimed films like ‘The Secret of Kells’ and ‘Song of the Sea’ has married a blend of sumptuous animation with Celtic storytelling that has won over audiences and renewed interest in Celtic mythology. Liverpool Irish Festival, as part of its film strand, has increasingly reflected this trend; three years ago it screened the English premiere of ‘Five Fables’, written by Seamus Heaney narrated by Billy Connolly with a score by Barry Douglas and with beautiful 2D animation by Flickerpix.

Kate Corbin is one of the organisers of the Celtic Animation Film Festival. She says the quality of the submissions for the inaugural award have been incredible,

“The range of techniques, subjects and quality of animation across all categories is awe inspiring. We aim to highlight this excellent work through CAFc and encourage new and emerging celtic and international animators to forge an ongoing global community to celebrate and share their practice.”

Liverpool Irish Festival is the only arts and culture led Irish festival in the UK. Now in its 15th year it runs across ten days in October (19-29) and provides a platform for artists and performers across a range of disciplines, including music, performance, visual art, film, dance, theatre, literature and more. Celebrating the unique cultural connections between Liverpool and Ireland, this year’s festival programme includes a lecture by BBC war correspondent Orla Guerin, a new strand called In:Visible Women, exploring the forgotten stories of Irish women and the launch of a new book by Greg Quiery telling the story of the shared history between Liverpool and Ireland, and the impact on the culture of modern Liverpool.

To find out more and to book tickets click here.

DJ Arveen Juthan interviews London Irish man, Derek.

Deserted Island Discs – a support for islanders

In May 2017, the Liverpool Irish Festival were delighted to be able to attend the Irish Government’s Global Forum; a conference that brought together organisations from around the world that support the Irish Diaspora. As well as meeting people from the Irish Centre in New York, social workers from Australia and many more besides, we were delighted to meet representatives from Mind Yourself, a London based support organisation, with a great creative project, which we thought might be of interest to our readers. Here, Judith Orr outlines that project.

The Irish community in Britain has made a huge contribution to the life, culture and wealth of Britain yet it faces specific physical and mental health problems. The last census shows that Irish people have the highest median age of any other ethnic group, which reflects the fact that more than 50 percent of Irish people in Britain emigrated from Ireland before 1970. Irish people are also overrepresented in crisis mental health services and in-patient admission for depression, meaning that of those patients suffering with ‘levels of crisis’ a higher proportion of admissions will be of Irish descent. There are many suggested explanations. Irish people are sometimes less likely than others to go to a doctor if they have a problem – physical or mental – but in particular, the stigma attached to mental health issues means that often people will be forced seek help only once they reach some sort of crisis. This is mirrored with, for example, cancer diagnosis and care for which people often put off going to mainstream medical services for help until curative care is unavoidable.

Mind Yourself is a charity that supports the health and wellbeing of Irish people in London, the city with the largest Irish community in Britain. We address the health inequalities experienced by Irish people in many different ways. Social isolation is a problem, particularly for many older Irish people, who the census shows are disproportionately more likely to live alone. We combat this with varied group activities, from creative writing, history themed walks to art and music sessions. We also offer one-to-one support for those that need it.

We have found that men in particular find talking about themselves, their life and health difficult, so we launched a project called Deserted Island Discs, with the aim of encouraging Irish men to talk their lives and experiences through the music that has influenced them. It’s an oral history project with a musical twist and it’s been a great success. Dublin born DJ Arveene Juthan interviewed the men, all from different backgrounds with their own unique life stories. Each sound file brings alive the varied circumstances that brought people from all over Ireland to find a future in Britain.

The Deserted Island Discs project concentrated on men, as they are often hardest to reach in terms of expressing their feelings and fears, but all our other projects work with men and women. It’s interesting that Irish emigration to Britain stands out, because of the number of women who came alone to find work, something that is more unusual among other emigrant communities.

Some arrived in London when the city was still recovering from the bombing of the Second World War, and those memories are still vivid. Many of the Irish people in Britain who arrived during the 1950s and 60s remember how many Irish people were treated when they looked for jobs and homes. The legacy of the prejudice many experienced is also explored reflecting a time when Irish people in Britain were often treated as a “suspect community”. Others talk about the pressing need to earn money to help support their family from an early age.

These life stories are interwoven with the men’s selections of music, which often represent the different times of their life’s journey. The music choices span from traditional Irish songs to soul classics to pop, and include among them a barman and a craft brewer, a librarian and a celebrity chef.

After a showcase event for the project, where an audience heard extracts of interviews and music, creator and producer Arveene edited each interview into a single episode. We are treated to a glimpse of the paths taken; of the regrets and joys and the meaning of being Irish in Britain today. Each episode is being posted online so there is a permanent record of these memories and moving testimonies that can reach a wide audience.

To stream or download Deserted Island Discs from the Mind Yourself website, click here.

This piece was composed by Judith Orr, Fundraising and Events Officer, Mind Yourself. Judith joined Mind Yourself in August 2016. She grew up in Belfast in Northern Ireland and moved to London in 1977 to do a BSc in Psychology at University College London and has lived in the capital ever since. She has worked in many different fields including publishing and bookselling. Her interests are politics, writing and reading.

If you are interested in learning more about Mind Yourself visit: or email [email protected].

More information

For anyone concerned about their or a loved one’s mental health, please be aware services are available in Liverpool. Irish Community Care ( works with both the Irish (including people of Irish descent) and Irish Traveller communities and the wider community.

In partnership with the Comedy TrustLiverpool Irish Festival also support a project for men, called Feeling Funny – a course designed to enable men to find routes in to telling their personal stories and exploring their feelings and histories in a safe and supported environment. To find out more, click here.


The Breath (c) York Tillyer - 4 members, sat onteh floor in front of a large arched window

LIF2017 asks – what does it mean to be Irish?

Liverpool Irish Festival returns for its 15th year this October. 

  • Liverpool Irish Festival is the only arts and culture led Irish festival in the UK platforming an incredible array of art, culture, performance, film, music, literature, food and drink, talks and tours

  • It runs for 10 days between Thurs 19-Sun 29 October 2017 at venues including the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room, the Capstone Theatre, Liverpool Irish Centre, Handyman Supermarket, Liverpool Central Library and more

  • It’s returning for its 15th year and involves hundreds of artists and performers

  • Expanding on previous festival events, In:Visible Women delivers a new strand of festival work exploring gender politics in Liverpool and Ireland’s history and culture, including a talk by BBC war correspondent Orla Guerin (in partnership with the Institute of Irish Studies at University of Liverpool); photography from Casey Orr,  children’s author Carmel Kelly and others.

Liverpool Irish Festival returns for its 15th year asking, “what does it mean to be Irish?” 2017 is a significant year for Irish culture and identity. With the potential impact of new Irish citizens applying for passports; a review of Ireland’s Global Diaspora and referendum policies plus the election of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a growing conversation on the future of the island of Ireland and its relationship between “traditional values” and 21st century liberalism is surfacing. In its role as the largest festival of Irish arts and culture in the UK.

Liverpool Irish Festival is well placed to invite artists, academics and the public to explore these conversations and how the relationships between Ireland, Liverpool and the wider UK will develop at this critical juncture.

Highlights of the 2017 festival include:

Orla Guerin will give a lecture at this year’s festival

**BBC War Correspondent Orla Guerin reflects on a frontline career a broadcast journalist, experiencing some of the most unsettled war zones in the world. Orla’s lecture launches a new festival strand In:Visible Women, which explores some of the ‘forgotten women’ from Liverpudlian and Irish history, as well as contemporary issues facing women. This precedes a night of music from Liverpool and/or Irish female performers, including folk musician, Liverpool resident and Comhaltas player, Emma Lusby (Limavady, Co Londonderry); vocalist and composer Sue Rynhart and singer Ailbhe Reddy (both Dublin).

**Festival bands include Strength NIA (Derry) and Seafoam Green (Dublin). Live sessions take place in pubs across the city and a three-night festival club at Liverpool Philharmonic’s Music Room.

**Full performances of the play ‘Committed’. Having first appeared as a script-reading at Liverpool Irish Festival 2014 it returns after a successful run. Written by Stephen Smith (Belfast), the play is set in 1990s Belfast, against the backdrop of the peace process and continuing aggression and violence within communities.

**‘The Lily and the Poppy’, a strand of work (and name given to the festival’s partnership with the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool) first launched in 2016, returns with a talk exploring reconciliation, particularly within Ireland.

**A new Liverpool Irish history book by Greg Quiery (musician, walking tour-guide, writer and Liverpool Irish Festival Board member) launches at the festival, offering a definitive examination of the indelible historic and cultural bonds between Irish communities and “East Dublin”, as Liverpool is often known. The launch is sponsored by, and will take place at the, Institute of Irish Studies.

Composer Sue Rynhart will perform at In:Visible Women (c) Virginia Thomas Photography

Emma Smith, Festival Director says,

“Over the past 15 years the Liverpool Irish Festival has worked towards becoming the only arts and culture led Irish festival in the UK. Our consideration of contemporary arts practice, Irish culture and some of the more traditional elements of Ireland’s creative expression, permit us to engage in both current and historic stories that tie Liverpool and Ireland together. Because we have created and programmed a multidisciplinary festival, we offer the opportunity of hearing from a range of voices, providing the chance to hear these stories through written form, voice, music, song, dance, art, and performance. There are opportunities to speak with the artists, watch their work from a distance or engage directly. This leads audiences to a rich variety of events, practices and spaces. We have more exciting projects to announce for this year’s festival and we think it’ll be our most diverse and exciting yet!”

The full programme will be online to book tickets at from Mon 11 Sept 2017

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The most diverse celebration of Irish culture in the UK, Liverpool Irish Festival began in 2003. Established to celebrate cultural connections between Liverpool and Ireland, bringing the two communities closer together through arts and culture, the festival has grown into a ten day festival of music, art, performance, culture, food, drink and film. Key artists to have performed at the festival include: Roisin O, Ciaran Lavery, Fearghus O’Conchuir, Terri Hooley, Ailís Ni Rhian, Lisa Hannigan and Dennis Connolly and Anne Cleary (2015’s Meta Perceptual Helmets). Liverpool Irish Festival works with partners across the city and Ireland including the Liverpool Irish Centre, Irish in Britain, Connected Irish, NML, Liverpool Philharmonic, the Unity, the Capstone and the Irish Embassy along with other social spaces such as The Caledonia, Kelly’s Dispensary and The Edinburgh.

The Liverpool Irish Festival is supported with Cultural Investment funding from Liverpool City Council, for which it is greatly indebted.

Dave O'Grady- (c) John Johnson

Seafoam Green creative call for poster design

Interested in poster design? Are you a great artist, illustrator or creator? Do you want to be seen all over Liverpool in connection with the Liverpool Irish Festival and an internationally renowned music talent? Yes? Then this is the call for you!

In partnership with Mellowtone, the Liverpool Irish Festival seeks a lead image to support Seafoam Green’s festival event at

  • The Vines (81 Lime Street, L1 1JQ) on Fri 20 Oct 2017
  • Tickets: £10 (+booking fee)
  • Tickets will be available from:

This is an opportunity to have your artwork used across the city in all the promotion for this incredible event. It will be the lead image for all the event posters and leaflets, as well as all the print listings for the festival, online event listings and other adverts in partner listings.

It is a great way to take your work to new audiences and we will ensure it is fully credited with every use by Liverpool Irish Festival or Mellowtone.

The image supplied needs to be submitted digitally, with a suitable print resolution (300dpi min) for up to A0 (841x1189mm/33.1×468.8in) printing. You need to include in your design – one of the Liverpool Irish Festival logos, the Mellowtone tree logo and one other of the Mellowtone brands provided. You may use the inspiration file for reference.  (Logos can be found here). The origins of the work can be in any medium, but based on its use for posters and promotion it will need to be supplied to us in this format. We recommend using WeTransfer. Please be aware Ts and Cs apply.

The panel expect that creators will consider – and possibly reference – Seafoam Green’s work, style or lyrics. We recommend using the most recent album Topanga Mansion (you can listen to samples here) as a start point. Alternatively, a short biography about Seafoam Green is available here:

We would also consider images that reference the event’s unique venue.

Because of the various ways the image will go on to be used, we advise only submitting an image and not a poster design, over which we can overlay the necessary text. This will allow for last minute changes, but also to will enable us to use the image across all platforms.

All entries should be submitted to [email protected] by 15th September 2017. If you have any questions or thoughts, don’t hesitate to contact us on [email protected]. Dave O’Grady (Seafoam Green) is happy to answer creative queries, please send them over to us and we’ll make sure they’re sent on.

This call, plus Ts and Cs are available in PDF format, here.

Captured by

Men wanted for comedy course that improves mental health

Mental health may seem like a buzz phrase today, but in the UK, suicide is one of the biggest killers of men aged between 25 and 44. Male suicide runs at three times the national average of female suicide (based on ONS figures) and is a cause of great concern, not just for hospitals and families, but for society at large.

The Liverpool Irish Festival have been working with The Comedy Trust to engage local Liverpool, Liverpool Irish and Irish men in an NHS supported project called Feeling Funny; a seven week course in which participants work with stand-up and local legend, Sam Avery, to find ingenious, creative and hilarious ways of telling their stories. By doing so, they make friends, demystify challenging stories and access difficult emotions which are put to use in a positive way. By creating a friendly environment, in which to exchange stories and unravel feelings, participants have gained confidence, dealt with unresolved emotions and found new insights for their personal stories. If only we all had a Feeling Funny class to go to, right?

This is a free opportunity to try something new, pit your wits and hone your hilarity, whilst all the time improving your health, wellbeing and mental attitude. Too good to miss? We think so.

Not to long to sign up – don’t miss out!

This course commences 6pm-8pm Tues 15 August 2017, then every Tuesday until 26 September 2017 at Merseyside Youth Association (Hanover Street, L1 3DY). If you would like to find out more please contact: Helen Holden, Project Manager, The Comedy Trust at [email protected] or call: 07593 042930 or 0151 702 5893 a.s.a.p.

For a PDF about the course, click this link.


Still from 'Five Fables' (c) Flickerpix, 2014

Celtic Animation Film Festival competition call

The Liverpool Irish Festival is proud to be supporting the inaugural Celtic Animation Film Festival, which will feature as part of this year’s programme, showcasing creative ingenuity and stories from and about Celtic life. The main focus of this festival-within-a-festival will take place 22 October* 2017 and will involve screenings, talks and awards.

Below is the call out for submissions. If you are interested in making a submission or have any questions, please read below and contact [email protected] for further info.

*Please note – this is a date amend from  20-21 October 2017, which was listed in the original posting.

Celtic Animation Film Festival competition (CAFc)

The inaugural Celtic Animation Film Festival competition provides a platform for established animators of Celtic heritage and emerging Celtic animators from around the world.

CAFc celebrates storytelling relating to Celtic identity, myths, cultural history and personal stories from Celtic animators from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Brittany and Cornwall and those who have migrated around the world. CAFc also welcomes international animation submissions celebrating cultural diversity and identity from outside the Celtic regions.

Animation film submissions are welcome on the topics:

  • The contribution to the world of animation by the Celtic and Irish Diaspora
  • Celtic and Irish influence on animation
  • Celtic and Irish heritage and traditions in contemporary animation
  • The universality of Celtic and Irish storytelling
  • Cultural diversity and identity from an international perspective.

Celtic Animation Film Competition 2017 Call Out:

CAFc is calling for short animated films made in Liverpool, Ireland and/or Celtic regions. We also welcome work by Celtic animators now residing outside of these regions and international submissions, for consideration for the

  • Student Short Film Award
  • Professional Short Film Award
  • International Short Film Award.

Download the submission form (here) and send it to [email protected] along with three film images (300 dpi) by midnight, 25 August, 2017.

Rules and regs for the competition can be found here.

Good luck from the CAFc team!