A sunset ceremony last Friday at the Mound of Down in Downpatrick opened a major new international festival celebrating Ireland’s patron saint. The Home of St Patrick Festival is taking place across Armagh and Down in a ground-breaking three-week global programme funded by Tourism NI.
Running from March 3 to March 19 and organised by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, the festival received £115,000 from TNI’s International Tourism Events funding. The Tourism NI programme, which includes support for both International Tourism Events and a National Tourism Events Sponsorship Scheme, is part of the Events Strategic Vision for Northern Ireland. That strategy aims to support events as a driver for visitor numbers with the objective of strengthening Northern Ireland’s position as a must-see destination.
The Home of St Patrick Festival promises to be the most-diverse celebration of Patrick’s life story with a special emphasis on the number 17, the date of the patron saint’s day. Taking place over 17 days with 17 major events, the programme includes live Irish and international music, Gaelic sport and spiritual elements. Its unrivalled mix of music, theatre, spoken word, art and comedy will help to showcase the stunning locations where Patrick walked and worked.
Bringing together renowned performers, artists and guest speakers from around the world, the festival opened last Friday, 3 March with two unique spiritual events: the sunset at The Mound of Down and Fires at Dawn at the Navan Fort which featured Aboriginal musicians from Australia who travelled specially for the occasion.
The international flavour continues next Friday, 10 March with The Secret Ensemble, an eight-strong musical collaboration of artists from Turkey, Iran and the Middle East. Budding artists can also attend two workshops in applying gold leaf to manuscripts on Wednesday, 8 March, as part of Illumination with acclaimed artist Toni Watts
And while the spirit is lifted by music, the Home of St Patrick Festival will also provide food for thought with a series of panel sessions from guest lecturers, speakers and thought leaders. The award winning novelist and political scientist Elif Shafak gave the Saul Address on Saturday as part of the Memoirs and Confessions series which continues next Saturday (11 March).
St Patrick in a modern context is the subject of the St Patrick’s Lecture on March 16th, when the Primates of the two principal churches in Ireland together with Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York explore the theme of Patrick the Exile. This will be followed by a special St Patrick’s Vigil which will reflect his own journey of unity and which links the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic cathedrals.