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From Blindboy to the Book of Kells: Here’s what you can expect from this year’s St Patrick’s Festival

The festival will run from the morning of 12 March until around midnight on Paddy’s Day.

WITH IRELAND STILL grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic one would be forgiven for thinking that the St Patrick’s Festival might be pared back this year. In fact, the organisers have created a six-day extravaganza featuring everything from Céilis to comedy.

“There’s something on all the time every day, it doesn’t stop at all,” explains the festival’s communications director Aileen Galvin. Indeed, a quick glance at the schedule shows that the activities kick-off with a yoga session on the morning of Friday 12 March and continue right through until around midnight on St Patrick’s Day.

Among the range of events featured will be music, poetry, knitting, weaving and wellness workshops and walking, food and history tours.

Galvin says the organising team concluded in December that Covid-19 would prevent the festival from taking place live this year. They initially planned on running around 20 events, but ambitions to create a national festival, with contributions from all over Ireland, quickly saw that number swell to 100.

Moving the festival online saw hundreds of artists, musicians, creators and community organisations safely record events all around the country. The geographical spread of the events takes vast with everywhere from the Aran Islands to Sheriff Street, in Dublin’s north-inner city,getting a look-in.

“There’s food tours of Ireland, there’s virtual tours all over the country. There’s tours of the Book of Kells, there’s ceilis, there’s sessions, there’s loads of poetry in there, there’s massive lighting shows. There’s just so much happening,” Galvin explained.

Music will form a big part of the festival, with a wide range of contemporary artists featuring. Pillow Queens, Gemma Dunleavy and Adam Mohamed will perform from the Guinness Storehouse while for electronic fans Sorca McGrath, New Jackson, Simon Cullen, Polytunnel and Gareth Quinn Redmond will be among those featured in a series of 30 minute vignettes.

There will also be a musical interpretation of the poetry of James Joyce featuring Lisa Hannigan and Cora Venus Lunny. Other acts gracing the festival are Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Mary Coughlan, Kíla, Sorca McGrath and Fontaines DC’s Grian Chatten. 

SPF 21 Barrog Barróg Lá Féile Phádraig will be a huge traditional music set on 17 March.

Blindboy Boatclub and comedians Foil, Arms & Hog and Michael Fry are also among the lengthy list of contributors.

The festival will also have an SPF Óg strand which is focused on children and will feature parade workshops, circus performances, science experiments, kids yoga and 15-minute film collections showcasing short films made by young people.

The virtual parade will return this year on 17 March, with the festival again teaming up with RTÉ to bring the pageantry of Paddy’s Day, complete with marching bands, into the safety of people’s homes. 

In terms of accessibility, the big news this year is that most of the festival will be broadcast on Oireachtas TV, which is available on all TV provider platforms in Ireland.

“Oireachtas TV enables us to bring most of the festival to 1.1 million homes in Ireland,” said Galvin. “This ensures that we reach audiences that are not digitally savvy or with little or no broadband access. I made the approach to Oireachtas TV when my own Mum, who is 89 and cocooning in Limerick for almost a year now, asked where she could see all the events.

It is a hugely generous gift from the Members of the House to the nation, in particular our elderly and vulnerable who may not be in a position to watch online. For many, the TV in the corner of the living room is a vital connection with the world outside during lockdown. We are thrilled we can bring a bit of light and joy to those who have sacrificed so much for us all.

The new programme has something for all different tastes and interests, Galvin added. “There’s so much in the festival that there is something in there for everyone. That means that not everybody’s gonna like everything. So, it’s a case of picking and choosing, but if you’re going to look for an authentic Irish experience, this is the authentic Irish experience,” she said.

The full schedule will be available on the festival’s website and all the events can be viewed on Oireachtas TV and on St Patrick’s Festival TV, an online TV channel which will be available from 12 March at StPatricksFestival.ie.

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