Fingers crossed for a dry Paddy’s weekend

A year ago, when the snow hit St Patrick’s weekend, among the cancellations was the Big Day Out, a St Patrick’s Festival perennial on Dublin’s Merrion Square. They had to pull the plug at the 11th hour, calling off street entertainers, stalls and attractions.

But the Dublin festival is clearly challenging the gods and banking on lightning not striking twice – as it’s expanding the big day into a three-day Festival Village at Merrion Square, Dublin (March 16th-18th). Says artistic director Karen Walshe: “we’re looking at the long range forecast every day, and we’re being positive!”

The impressive lineup in this shindig will include a Gaeltacht, a Céilí Mór, Tumble Circus acrobatics in a big top, street theatre, science workshops and shows, children’s readings and discos, live music, village hall talks, street theatre, and a world food market. There’s an Actual Reality Arcade – a life size interactive zone for gamers – and large scale mathematical exhibits. Top stuff, and free too; what’s not to like?

This year’s Paddy’s festival angle is our storytelling heritage, and the five-day lineup involving 3,000 people promises to reflect on the zeitgeist in multiple ways. There’s a focus on Irish food and drinks, tons of family-friendly events plus festival plus quirky one-offs and commissions.

More than 500,000 people are expected to enjoy the parade, with Irish and international street theatre and pageant companies riffing on the storytelling theme, starting at noon on Parnell St on St Patrick’s Day.

Ireland’s storytelling heritage is at the heart of the 2019 National St Patrick’s Festival. Photograph: Maxwells
Ireland’s storytelling heritage is at the heart of the 2019 National St Patrick’s Festival. Photograph: Maxwells

Walsh also points out some one-offs, such as Standing, Sitting, Lying Down (City Assembly House, Friday), an immersive audio visual show with composers performing over a multi-speaker sound system encompassing the audience, who are standing, sitting, or even lying on rugs. She also mentions The Muskerry Queen of Song (Saturday) where Donal Dineen explores the traditional singing of Elizabeth (Bess) Cronin, hugely influential from the 1940s on, with her granddaughter singer Eilish Ní Thuama, and sean-nós singer Eithne Ní Chatháin.

What else in a packed lineup? A significant exhibition from world-acclaimed Irish photographer Eamonn Doyle at the RHA features 146 images (many up to 2.5metres ), along with Doyle’s Made in Dublin, a multi-media immersive installation – a nine-screen cinematic surround-sound panoramic work of 10,000 images.

The Words That Bind Us brings together poets from Ireland and Scotland to collaborate with emerging writers from Ballymun, culminating in the students’ spoken word pieces (Axis Ballymun, Saturday and as part of a Dublin Unesco City of Literature Poetry Trail on Monday).

The festival opens with Cormac Begley and Friends at the Pepper Canister Church on Thursday
The festival opens with Cormac Begley and Friends at the Pepper Canister Church on Thursday

Artists living in direct provision weave their stories with ancient Irish mythologies, along with actor Raymond Keane, singer Farah Elle and Candlelit Theatre, using storytelling, song, spoken word, music and movement in This Land (Civic Tallaght, Friday; National Concert Hall, Saturday).

Festival commission Terra Firmis, by contemporary music and dance by composer Seán Mac Erlaine and dancer Emma O’Kane, is a poetic interpretation of the sinking church on Inish Oirr (Smock Alley, Friday).

Actor Liam Cunningham’s brain will be picked in Finest Minds (Saturday, free), which includes performers such as Afro hip-hop Irish singer-songwriter Sehdah.

The festival opens with Cormac Begley and Friends (including Liam Ó Maonlaí, Libby Cronin, Stephen James Smith, host Donal Dineen) for musical stories and tunes (Pepper Canister Church, Thursday).

Sing Out Loud! sees senior and multi-generational choirs raising their voices in glorious song at city landmarks (Friday). There’s also traditional singing and storytelling are all over the city; a techno and electro session on St Patrick’s Day; EPIC’s family events; and Gnás site-specific performances for young adults.

St Patrick’s Festival Dublin, March 14-18th. stpatricksfestival.ie

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