Europe’s biggest Irish festival takes place this month as the Manchester Irish Festival 2012 comes to town.
The festival, established in 1996, celebrates all things Irish and runs from the March 2 – 18. Endorsed by the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, as biggest Irish Festival in Europe outside of the Emerald Isle, the organisers are aiming to make it the biggest Irish celebration in the world.
One of the major highlights of the festival takes place this weekend with the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday, expected to attract over 100,000 revellers and 1000 participants.
The parade, led by the Lord Mayor of Manchester and other dignitaries, will travel a three mile route from leaving the Irish World Heritage Centre at 11:30am, passing through Cheetham Hill Road, Corporation Street, Cross Street, John Dalton Street, Lloyd Street and Albert Square before arriving back at the centre at 2:30.
The organiser of the parade, Brian Kennedy, is encouraging Mancunians to turn out in force. He said: “It is a great free day out for all the family and everyone in Manchester wears something green and puts a smile on their face.”
Popular Irish musicians The Dubliners and eccentric songbird Sinead O’Connor are among the headliners performing at the parade, which has hosted international sensations Riverdance and the Lord of the Dance in recent years.
As well as the parade the festival has a range of other activities to get involved with, including musical and comedic performances, art exhibitions, a Bob Dylan & The Clancy Brothers tribute night and a Ladies day for the females to enjoy.
The parade isn’t just for the Irish among us, however, and the organisers are welcoming support from all sections of the community.
Tony Hennigan, Festival Press Officer, said: “It is not geared exclusively to people with Irish roots, it is open to all and attracts a proud spectrum of visitors.”
The Irish Festival Community Market continues to run in Albert Square this weekend, finishing up on Sunday which is expected to be its busiest day. The market is well worth a visit for a taste of Ireland, selling traditional Irish foods such as soda farls and potato bread.
If you’re looking for an authentic Irish souvenir a visit to the stall selling Irish turf burners is a must. Flanagan’s Irish Coffee House and O’Brien’s Bar are also worth a visit for a beverage or two.
The Manchester Irish Festival finishes up on Sunday March 18, the day after St. Patrick’s Day, with a range of events designed with Mother’s Day in mind.
Tommy Fleming, favourite of Irish mothers everywhere, will stage a performance in the Opera House from 7.30pm and a ticket to this is certainly a wise choice for a Mother’s Day present.