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    Film highlights Irish immigration to English town

    Monday, March 30th, 2009

    Two filmmakers in South Tyneside, England, have made a documentary about the impact of immigration into the town of Jarrow.

    Director Gary Wilkinson and playwright Tom Kelly created “Little Ireland” using archive material, photographs and interviews with descendants of Irish immigrants.

    The 40-minute film has been an instant success at home, selling out two screenings in South Shields earlier this month.

    The pair are now trying to interest Irish film festivals, and have sent out copies to film festivals in Dublin, Belfast, Waterford and Cork.
    The film is available from the South Shields Central Library for £10.

    See related web pages:

    Will Irish-language fashions appeal to emigrants?

    Monday, March 9th, 2009

    Will an upturn in emigration change Irish fashion?  Two English-born, Galway-based sisters believe that it may, according to an article in the Sunday Business Post.

    Theresa and Mary McGovern have launched a website featuring t-shirts with slogans in Irish. The pair moved to Ireland as children when their Cavan-born parents made the move home. Mary had worked in London for eight years before moving to Galway, where she and her sister opened a boutique called Pagan. They began designing t-shirts and hoodies with Irish language slogans, and have now decided to take their business global through a website at, which launches on Tuesday.

    The pair believe that the clothing line’s celebration of a uniquely Irish style may give them an edge in today’s economic climate. “We hope to grow through the recession with our online business. We think emigration will make people more aware and proud of their cultural identity,” Theresa told the newspaper.

    She added, “Our customers have found it a conversation-starter as far away as Tokyo, New York and Sydney.”

    Related websites:

    Exhibition on Irish men’s experience in Britain to tour Spain and US

    Monday, March 9th, 2009

    An art exhibition exploring the experience of male Irish immigrants to Britain in the 20th Century is premiering at PM Gallery in West London this month before it goes on an international tour.

    The Quiet Men is the work of five artists drawing on their own lives to depict the London-Irish experience: Bernard Canavan, Daniel Carmody, John Duffin, Dermot Holland and Brian Whelan.

    From the gallery’s press release:

    Each featured artist is an immigrant, or child of immigrants, from Ireland. This immigrant status informs the work, which observes the margins of society and is full of stories, humour and tragedy. The church and pub appear, as do the launderette, bus and train. The theme of the journey is often present in the songs, toasts, poems and prayers of the immigrant and the artists do not stray far from the vehicles that brought them to the city and might take them away again.

    Exhibition curator and featured artist Brian Whelan says,

    ‘Irish music, literature, poetry and dance are celebrated all over the world. However, when asked to bring to mind Irish paintings, sculpture or architecture or to name an artist, many will have difficulty as very few have been celebrated outside Ireland. One reason for this may be that a people that experienced famine, war, economic hardship and mass immigration, carried only their portable culture with them in their heads, hearts and suitcases. Poems and songs have few requirements short of a good memory or the ability to carry a tune, whereas painting, sculpture and architecture are less portable and need peace, prosperity and time in order to flourish.’

    The exhibition will run from 11 March to 18 April at the PM Gallery, before it goes to Spain, Philadelphia and Chicago.

    Complementing the exhibition is a photographic exhibition, “Irish Londoners 1950-1975″, which chronicles the lives of the London Irish after the Second World War. The photographs are from the Paddy Fahey Collection at Bernt Archive.
    See more information at the PM Gallery’s website.

    “Migrating Minds”, University of Aberdeen, 14-15 May 2009

    Monday, March 9th, 2009

    “Migrating Minds: Imagined Journeys – Imagined Homecomings” will be the topic of a conference hosted in May at the AHRC Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen. The conference will take place alongside the Aberdeen WORD Festival.

    Organisers say:

    Literature (both fiction and non-fiction), personal journals and correspondence, and art enable us to explore the impact that journeys and homecomings have had on Irish and Scottish imaginations. Irish and Scottish migrants, as well as those who sought to understand, interpret and exploit the experience of migration, participated in the production and circulation of these accounts and images both at home and abroad. As such, they form an important dimension to any understanding of the Irish and Scottish diasporas. With this in mind, we seek to investigate the idea of migration as a series of narratives and rhetorical tropes that develop over time.

    Selected proceedings will be published in the Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies.

    Related links:

    Skibbereen and Canada to host Famine Memorial events

    Thursday, January 8th, 2009

    This year’s National Famine Memorial Day will be held on May 17th. The date has been announced by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Eamon O Cuiv.

    Skibbereen, Co. Cork will be the focal point of this year’s commemoration in Ireland, while there will also be an international event taking place in Toronto. Skibbereen was selected as it was one of the worst affected areas; a mass grave at Abbeystrewery holds between 8,000 and 10,000 famine victims.

    The National Famine Commemoration Committee was established last year, and had decided to hold an annual event, revolving between each of the four provinces. Last year’s event was in Dublin, and in 2010 Mayo will be the focal point.

    The committee will also run a parallel event in Canada; Canada was a landing point for thousands of Irish fleeing starvation. The overseas commemoration reflects the role of the famine in dispersing the Irish people, as the population fell from 8 million in 1841 to half that in the following decades.

    Related websites:

    Irish government announces additional US funding

    Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

    Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin has announced another round of funding for Irish community projects in the US, bringing the 2008 total for Emigrant Support funding to over $5 million.

    The $2 million in funding announced this week will cover several capital projects:

    • JFK Presidential Library and Museum, Boston ($1,000,000)
    • San Francisco GAA Facilities ($500,000)
    • Chicago Gaelic Park ($250,000)
    • Rockland County GAA ($200,000)
    • Irish Americans in Government, New York ($20,000)

    Several emigrant services project are also getting funding:

    • New York Irish Centre ($80,000)
    • Ancient Order of Hibernians ($20,000)
    • Aisling Irish Centre, New York ($20,000)
    • Senior Helpline Project, New York ($15,000)

    In announcing the funding, Minister Martin said,

    “I am announcing grants for three major Irish community development projects in San Francisco, Chicago and New York. Earlier this year, I announced funding for another major Irish community development project in Boston. Each of these projects marks a new and exciting phase in the development of the large Irish communities in these cities. The involvement of the GAA in each of the projects is pivotal given that the organisation is a key focal point for our people in the US, and it is to be praised for its work within those communities.”

    “These investments are a strong indication of the enormous value the Government places on supporting our people in the United States and of our firm commitment to building even closer ties with the Irish American community. It is a community to which we in Ireland have on many occasions over the years turned to for advice and practical assistance. It is also a partnership which will secure the long term future of the Irish community in America”

    “I know from my own visits to the United States how committed our communities are to maintaining their own distinctive culture and tradition and their links with Ireland. I believe that there is an onus on us to assist them in their efforts. This investment represents a win- win for Ireland and our community in the US. “

    “I also know how it is so important that the Irish in America have a focal point where they can meet, particularly for our older people who can so easily become isolated as their social networks splinter and sometimes disappear altogether. These are the very people who over the years would have sent substantial amounts in financial remittances back to Ireland and it is important that their contribution not be forgotten.”

    See the full press release on the Department of Foreign Affairs website.

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