After two years of preparation, the Festival was -in June 2021- awarded National Lottery Heritage Funds to start reviving the city’s historic Irish Famine Trail. In the coming years, the Trail’s restoration will involve local communities. It will provide a significant cultural asset for the city, creating new roles and creative commissions in the process.
Liverpool Irish Famine Trail
Originally erected by the Liverpool Great Hunger Commemoration Committee (and unveiled by Irish President Mary McAleese in 1998), the Trail marks a number of important sites. By presenting these sites of historic interest, the Trail memorialises the migration of 1.3-1.5m Irish citizens, to Liverpool, escaping he devasting effects of the Famine on the island of Ireland. By restoring information that has fallen into disrepair and bringing the Trail in to the digital world, we seek to ensure these stories are not lost and importantly are commemorated for their importance.
The years of the Famine -An Gorta Mór, 1845-52- saw a huge influx of Irish immigrants make their way to the port of Liverpool (there’s more detail on this in Fin Dwyer’s piece Ireland and Liverpool: A Traumatic History). The Famine forced whole families to flee in an attempt to escape the potato blight, starvation and disease -not to mention the British- rife in Ireland. Such harrowing experiences went on to inform Home Rule, widening the political divide between Dublin and London.
Often a first port of call on the journey to America, many could not afford the next leg of the journey and settled in Liverpool for life. This incredible ingress of Irish citizens had a huge and lasting impact of the city, and on Britain’s wider society.
In the coming years, Liverpool Irish Festival will restore the eight original sites and seven supporting locations, bringing the trail back to life, improving accessibility, and developing and commissioning artwork, films, signs, song and more to compliment the Trail, which will be accessible from the physical sites and virtually. The revival of the Trail will provide a renewed cultural asset to the city. It will allow communities to engage deeply with this pivotal period in Liverpool’s history. The Festival will use the Trail to promote learning; by using migration, identity, history and community as themes to open discussions and activities.
It is important to recognise that this Trail will sit within others, internationally, helping to tell the story of diaspora communities worldwide. Consequently, we will work with other Trails to ensure we can create a flow between us, that helps to pass the baton for other pilgrimages.
Developments to look out for
The regeneration of the Trail will develop new roles and creative commissions, to be released as work progresses. Watch out for adverts that will include
- volunteer researchers
- a film maker and
- a photographer, to document the Trail and the process of its revival;
- plus, community-made projects, accessible at and from Trail sites.
History Research Group Lead appointed
The Liverpool Irish Festival are pleased to announce the recruitment of ArtsGroupie CIC as the lead facilitator of its History Research Group. This group will inform work on the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail.
John Maguire, Director of ArtsGroupie CIC, has been recruited to the position of History Research Group Lead for the Liverpool Irish Festival led, National Lottery Heritage Funded project to revitalise the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail. The group will focus on research about the historic Liverpool Irish Famine Trail; bringing a significant period of Irish -and Liverpudlian- history in to the public realm.
In the 1990’s, the Great Hunger Commemoration Committee identified key sites of significant historic and social importance, memorialising Irish influence and impact, forming the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail.
This trail highlights the path taken by Irish Immigrants, and the ancestors of many Liverpool citizens, during the Great Famine; a period of mass starvation, disease and political upheaval in Ireland in the mid-1800s.
ArtsGroupie will be responsible for the overall development of research material to help explain the Trail. The project is currently recruiting for volunteers to join this group, with a view to compiling and digitising important information from the Great Hunger Commemoration Committee archives at the Liverpool Records Office. These will help us to tell the story of the Trail.
Anyone who would like to get involved in this group, is encouraged to visit our volunteer page, for more information. If you have specific questions about the History Research Group, email John Maguire on [email protected]
Quote from John Maguire:
‘ArtsGroupie are delighted to work with the Liverpool Irish Festival on this important and much needed heritage project. Collaboratively, we will build a core team of volunteers, consisting of passionate and enthused individuals to rejuvenate, the physical Trail; give voice to Irish perspectives and conserve the Trail’s history for future generations’.
Quote from Emma Smith, Artistic Director and CEO:
‘After over two years of planning, we are delighted to start working on materials which bring the Trail to life. ArtsGroupie have been selected for their creative ability to interpret history in to tours; distilling complex histories in to tangible stories. This is a significant part of Liverpool -and Merseyside’s- history, affecting large numbers of its citizens. It is important to involve the region in building this national asset. We are proud to be working with one of the city’s great creative producers to help us do this’.
Thanks and appreciation
The Festival would like to thank The National Lottery Heritage Fund for our award and the support and expertise we have received. We are indebted to the Liverpool Great Hunger Commemoration Committee. Their work in the 1990s leaves a legacy on which we will build and their indelible commitment is something we aspire to.
To find out more about the Liverpool Irish Famine Trial, visit liverpoolirishfestival.com/engage/liverpool-irish-famine-trail/
About the National Lottery Heritage Fund
Using money raised by the National Lottery, the National Lottery Heritage Fund inspires, leads and resources the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. heritagefund.org.uk Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery.
ArtsGroupie aims to make the arts accessible to all. Developing our own theatre productions, heritage walk tours and creative workshops taking them out to communities in the Northwest. artsgroupie.org ArtsGroupie participated in the 2019/20 Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Start Up programme at School for Social Entrepreneurs North West (Blackburne House) and has won a place on the 2021-22 Trade Up Programme.