The writer with Limerick Mayor James Collins at the New York Irish Consulate reception for the Global Irish Festival Series 2018. For more pictures from the event, see next Wednesday’s Irish Echo. PHOTO BY PETER MCDERMOTT
By Jeanne L. Logan
The Irish word “claddagh,” originates from the old-Irish “cladach” meaning seashore, upon which Galway was founded and from which its ancient fishing village took its name. Claddagh is often associated with the claddagh ring which is a symbol of three ideals: Grá (Love), Dilseacht (Loyalty), and Cairdeas (Friendship) expressed by Heart, Hands and a Crown. Year 2018 has been proclaimed the Year of the Irish Language and celebrates the 125th anniversary of the language movement. And would be hooligans galore if we didn’t recount Gaelic contributions to English – our whiskey glasses should be smashed to smithereens and each of us deemed phony (for examples).
In furtherance to deepening Irish cultural links, there are complicated questions regarding the Irish diaspora with ongoing research and particular studies by noted historians into the exit and dispersion of the Irish people. Emigration has been taking place since the Middle Ages, through the 18th and 19th centuries and up to the present, with particular studies focusing on 50 years before the Great Famine, and studies on the four years after the Famine which show a greater dispersion than the four years during the potato blight. Common conjecture has the Famine as the main reason for huge loss in Irish population, from which it has never recovered. Additional studies are underway to put the diaspora into larger historical perspective.
Some causes for the diaspora are Irish leaving for the New World to make a better life, crossing to England to build canals, because of denial of their civil rights and the penal system, seeking livelihood with the railroads and their fortunes with the Gold Rush in America.
Irish have scattered to several continents across the globe; lists can be found of Irish populations everywhere. Broadly, the Irish diaspora are those Irish and their descendants living outside Ireland. Statistics say over 100 million people – and 34 million Americans – claim Irish heritage. The Irish government has a stricter, legal definition for diaspora. But it seems mobility and modernity have enabled Irishness to depend on an individual’s choice to identify with the Irish diaspora – whether native-born, generations removed, or simply those who resonate with Irish culture.
In an effort to bring the diaspora together under a celebratory umbrella, the Consul General Ciaran Madden and Alison Metcalfe, Exec. VP, Tourism Ireland USA & Canada, hosted a kick off reception on Sept. 6 at the Consulate on Park Avenue. The hosts welcomed several esteemed Irish colleagues, doing their part to again launch the Global Irish Festival Series 2018 and the I.NY Festival, which was a big success last year.
“Welcome Home to Limerick” is the theme in that town for the diaspora, inviting one and all to enjoy and participate in the Richard Harris International Film Festival and the I.NY Fest events, to be held at the imposing King John’s Castle overlooking the River Shannon (King’s Island once settled by the Vikings), as impressive today with its intact walls and towers, courtyard and history, as it was during the 13th century when King John ordered it be built!
The I.NY Fest will be held in Limerick Oct. 7-14, exploring the deep connection between Ireland and the City of New York – “one story at a time,” as its Director David O’Donovan says, seen through venues of historical and contemporary stories of individuals, artists, sports, food, fashion, talks and concerts. Autumn is a colorful time of year to experience the foliage and all things Irish. In conjunction with Failte Ireland, run by Ciara Sugrue, head of festivals and events, Limerick is a perfect jumping-off point to explore the West of Ireland: for instance, the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands, the Burren, Galway City and Connemara.
Zeb Moore, director of the Richard Harris International Film Festival, is a very busy man. In between running three companies – Emerald Giant, a production company for feature films, an engineering company called Enviro Plastics; and his theatre company called Magic Roundabout Theatre (in which he has performed his one-man show to rave reviews), Impressario Moore has found time to accept the appointment to director of the Richard Harris International Film Festival, held Oct. 24-29, and stated, “it will be more than a film festival.” No doubt, we’re in for some special surprises.
Zeb Moore revealed there were over 300 movie submissions from over 125 countries. In addition to the features, there will be animation films, shorts, documentaries and film classes. Of particular note to buffs is the world premiere of a film on Constance Smith (1928-2003), a Hollywood actress of the 1950s, under contract to 20th Century Fox. Smith was a troubled Irish leading lady from a struggling family in Limerick, whose story did not end well. Her credits include a film with Michael Rennie, “The 13th Letter” (1951); with Jack Palance in “Man in the Attic” (1953); and Cornell Wilde in “Treasure of the Golden Condor” (1953).
There will, of course, be a retrospective of Richard Harris films at the film fest. Zeb’s friend and son of the deceased world-famous actor and his wife Elizabeth who lives in London will be present. Jamie Harris, 3rd child of the marriage, aspired to be a singer but now follows in his father’s footsteps. Two upcoming films: an Amazon production called “Carnival Row,” opens January 2019, as well as an HBO production entitled “Lovecraft Country” will premiere next year. Jamie tells the story of when his dad took him to the well-known P.J. Clarke’s at 55th and Third Avenue, in Manhattan, a fond hangout of the illustrious Mr. Harris. Jamie recalls he was about 5-years-old, his dad dragged him in, sat him on the bar, and put a hamburger in his mouth, all eyes were upon him — his first taste of celebrity…
Rob Gill, festival chairman, announced that next year the Limerick Festival would have a Writer’s Group, first festival in Ireland to offer this type of “American-style” workshop, an important innovation. They also expect to extend the Festival from 5 days to 7 days, and look forward to more and more Irish visiting the Emerald Isle and their heritage towns and cities. Messrs. Gill and Moore relayed they are connecting with the Newport Beach Film Festival, Long Beach Festival here in New York, as well as the Toronto Film Festival.
The Mayor of the City and County of Limerick James Collins was eager to put his County at the disposal of the Festivals and the diaspora to accommodate a further deepening of the links between Ireland and New York City and fellow Irish around the world. His office is very technically oriented, has won awards for their website, and is highly interactive. Mayor Collins himself writes a weekly column and has gone out of his way to enlist peers and constituents to participate in the diaspora festivities, both here in New York and Ireland.
The mayor is to be commended on his hiring of Saatchi & Saatchi Agency of London to be Limerick’s public relations firm, and we wish him well in all his many endeavors to promote the Irish Heritage City of Limerick. “The Nightflyers,” a CBS production scheduled to air this fall, just completed production at the facilities in Limerick. Mr. Collins is hoping for renewed contracts, and in the interim is turning half of the massive facility into a music production studio and has plans to educate and train the many employees needed to fill new positions. Kudos to Mayor James Collins.
Just as the new Irish Arts Center on 11th Avenue is breaking ground this fall, and the old Irish Arts Center is being refurbished, a great effort is being made by many constituencies to bring Irish culture to the world. Each in our own way hopes to contribute to this celebration of Irish diaspora.