Music, film and more at Leeds’ 13th Irish Gathering Festival
Words by Lauren Entwistle
It’s no secret that Leeds has a proud and lively Irish heritage. The city packs out Millennium Square when March rolls around for St Patrick’s Day, with the unmissable sight of the parade and sounds of traditional Irish music curling into the ears of passers-by. It’s arguably one of the brightest and loudest days in Leeds’ celebratory calendar, so it makes sense to bang the drums once more with a celebration of Irish culture.
Now in its thirteenth year, The Leeds Gathering 2017 features some of the most dynamic local, national and international performers in the world of Irish music and arts. There’s something for all tastes, from concerts, intimate music sessions, literary and educational events and film screenings – all running from the 18th to the 26th of November.
Music is an integral part of Irish culture, so there’s no surprise that there are several songwriters, bands and musicians topping the bill. First off is Matt Tighe at Inkwell Arts, the Fiddle-player is quickly making a name for himself in the world of Irish folk music. Born to an Irish and Trinidadian background, Tighe has been named a “fiery virtuoso”, playing at a number of gigs and festivals already. He’ll be playing on the 18th November from 7pm.
This event is Pay As You Feel.
Brian Kennedy is at Otley Courthouse on the 19th November from 8-10pm, where the internationally acclaimed singer, performer, songwriter, novelist and much more – (his credentials are impressive!) will be performing. With two platinum albums under his belt, A Better Man (1996) and Now That I Know What I Want (1999,) Kennedy is a slice of Ireland that is going to be unmissable. Tickets are £17 and can be bought here.
Leeds Irish brothers Cronin will be playing the songs of The Pogues lead-singer and songwriter Shane McGowan on the 24th November at Seven Arts. Their show, consisting of two sets, will pay homage to McGowan in one and then showcase their own material in the other – but make no mistake, these guys have got the seal of approval from Shane, now being his go-to band for collaborations.
“Cronin have pure Celtic soul,” he said of the brothers. “They sing my songs better than I do.”
Tickets are £10 on the door.
Lau is a pioneering contemporary folk trio made up of three of the UK’s finest traditional musicians: Kris Drever (vocals, guitar), Martin Green (accordion, Wurlitzer, keys, electronics) and Aidan O’Rourke (fiddle). The gang explores music rooted in gorgeous melodies, but takes folk music in every direction, utilising rich electronics with traditional beats. If you want award-winning Irish music with a twist, Lau is the way to go – with “Decade” celebrating 10 years in the game.
Catch them at Howard Assembly Room on the 25th November from 7:45pm. Tickets are £18 here.
Made up of BBC Folk Awards’ musician of the year and frontman Tom McConville, alongside Shona Kipling, David Newey, Mike Harding and Phil Murray, the band are a force to be reckoned with. Playing at Otley Courthouse from 8-10:30pm on the 25th November, listen to the Tom McConville Band play traditional Irish tunes mixed with inklings of country, jazz, blues and even rock and roll for a wild evening.
Tickets are £12 and you can book them here.
Finally, tune into a traditional Irish music session at The Garden Gate on the 26th November. The Garden Gate and The Grove Inn were well-known meeting spots for the Irish community up until the late 1950s, so it makes sense to bring them alive once more. Join Tom Oakes, who is regarded as one of the UK’s most accomplished and versatile wooden flautists and as a leading DADGAD guitarist and composer. Alongside him will be Jim Filgate, a well-known figure in the Irish scene in London – who will be singing and even doing a bit of Sean–nós (old style) dancing to accompany.
This event is free, so all the more reason to head down and get your jig on.
Film is also on the menu at the festival, so you can catch “The Journey” at Seven Arts Centre on the 20th November from 8pm.
Nick Hamm’s film, which stars Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney and John Hurt, is a speculative what-if drama about a vital and mysterious aspect of the Northern Ireland peace process: the extraordinary rapprochement between two old enemies – the DUP’s Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness. The film imagines that, halfway through the peace negotiations, Ian Paisley had to make a long car journey to get to his 50th wedding anniversary party and for reasons of diplomatic protocol, McGuinness would have to join him – a literal ice breaker.
Tickets are £6 and can be found here.
On a more educational note, on the 21st of November from 7:45pm at the Leeds Irish Centre, Peter Fawcett is launching his book – Fawcett’s Fleadh! – which is part memoir part historical record of All-Ireland Fleadhanna Cheoil since 1973, also featuring his photographs.
Peter Fawcett is Comhaltas Ceoltoiri na Eireann (CCE – Irish Musicians Association) PR Officer for the North of England and has been taking photos at Fleadh Cheoil na Eireann for over forty years.
The fleadh cheoil (for those who don’t know) is a week-long jamboree of traditional music, with concerts, pub sessions and street tunes. The beating heart of the fleadh, though, is found in the halls and classrooms distributed around the town where competitors strive to give the best performance in their age grouping in hopes of being named all-Ireland champion.
The photographs in this book are only a small fraction of Peter’s collection, but he has chosen ones that capture the spirit of the fleadh as well as the adventures of a Yorkshireman in Ireland.
This event is free.
And finally, Untold Stories is a community archive project undertaken by the Irish Arts Foundation showing at The Grove Centre from 10am on the 22nd November.
Initially funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project looks at the experiences of the emigrant Irish community in Leeds in the second half of the twentieth century, particularly their settlement patterns and cultural traditions such as music, dance, song and sport.
Study old photographs, listen to traditional music and watch a presentation featuring the Untold Stories documentary. To find out more, click here: www.untoldstories.co.uk
So, if you want to find out more about the Irish Community in Leeds, or just want to immerse yourself in the culture – The Leeds Gathering 2017 is the best place to start.