The St Patrick’s Festival, which celebrates the patron saint of Ireland is held on the weekend of, or nearest to the 17th March. The festival is organised by Luton Irish Forum with a team of volunteers. The St Patrick’s Festival Parade which falls on the Sunday now attracts 1000s of spectators. First held in Luton in 2000, the parade and other events have become one of the leading attractions of the Luton cultural calendar bringing Irish music, dance and drama to the streets and entertainment venues of Luton. The festival showcases the very best of Irish music, song and dance featuring artists and groups from both sides of the Irish Sea – many of them champions in their specific craft.
Choir rehearsals for Sean O’Riada Irish sung Masses
Sean O’Riada Irish sung Mass
‘If there was ever an example of the community of a town coming together it was the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Luton on Sunday, March 16th and Monday, March 17th. Thousands and thousands of people from all walks of life joined in the music, dancing and merriment creating a feel good factor in the town… A huge thank you has got to go to the Luton Irish Forum who organised the choirs, bands, dancing displays and the parade through the town centre with plenty of marshals ensuring public safety for everyone.’
The Emerald Pipe Band
The Emerald Pipe Band plays at many different events including Luton St Patrick’s Festival, Luton Carnival, Houghton Regis Carnival, Remembrance Sunday, Harrow Festival, weddings and funerals and many more.
Places are available for anyone wanting to become a member. Practices are held twice a week on Sunday mornings 10am – 12pm and Wednesday evenings 7 – 9pm. Instruments and a uniform are provided to those that demonstrate a commitment.
Our Bimonthly Cultural Seminars commenced in March 2012 with a talk about Irish Migration to the United Kingdom presented by Dr. Mary Hickman. These interactive presentations continued to attract an attendance of 40 – 70 members and visitors.
Other seminar dates to include:
Dr Ivan Gibbons gave a talk on Ireland 1912 – 22, covering the significance of the Ulster Covenant, when and why did nationalist Ireland move from Home Rule to Sinn Fein and why was a revolutionary independent Ireland so successful as a parliamentary democracy.
Jim O’Hara gave a talk on Anglo-Irish Relations through Political Cartoons, the importance of cartoons as historical documents which gave political and cultural insights into the complex relationship between Britain and Ireland over the last two centuries.
A seminar entitled The GAA [Gaelic Athletic Association] focused on the GAA and its influential role in Irish society that extends far beyond the basic aim of promoting Gaelic games. This seminar was presented by prominent member of the Irish community in Britain, Seamus McGarry with the input of former President of the GAA in Britain John Gormley.
Dr. Mary Hickman gave a talk pro the right of Irish citizens abroad to vote in elections in the Republic of Ireland and spoke positively in support.
Dr Ivan Gibbons gave a talk on The 1913 Lock-out and the subsequent ‘Strange Death of Labour Ireland’.
Dr Sean Campbell gave a talk on the role of Irish ethnicity in the lives and work of Second-generation Irish musicians, focusing on three high-profile acts: Kevin Rowland and Dexys Midnight Runners, Shane MacGowan and The Pogues, and Morrissey/Marr and The Smiths.
Bernard Canavan gave a seminar that explored people’s experiences of and life before immigration with the aid of images of his art work.
Tim Pat Coogan gave a talk on his book ‘The Famine Plot’: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy.
Luton Irish Forum delivers ‘The Life of St Patrick’ workshops in primary schools upon request. We have also organised other cultural workshops including costume making, flag making, multicultural dance and storytelling.
Cultural Discovery Boxes
We worked with 8 other communities to develop ‘Cultural Discovery Boxes’, a resource for schools and community centres. Communities include Irish, Irish Traveller, English, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Polish, West Indian and African. The boxes are available for loan.
Catching the Boat
Catching the Boat is an online archive that showcases how the Irish settled in Luton and then made their own special contribution to its development from 1940 to 1960. It includes details about the industries in which individuals were employed, their methods of travel to the UK and their uniforms or work clothing.