Speech by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, at British Embassy to Celebrate Culture Ireland GB18


I am delighted to be here today to mark our special relationship with Britain and to highlight GB18, a year-long programme designed by Culture Ireland to celebrate Irish artists in Britain and our ongoing cultural connections.

I want at the outset to thank the British Ambassador and all his team for their warm welcome and enthusiasm for this initiative. It is very special to have an occasion together in Dublin and your hospitality is really appreciated.

Seo clár an-speisialta go deo. Ní bheimís in ann é a chur ar siúl gan ár gcuid ealaíontóirí iontacha agus ár gcuid pairtnéirí sa Bhreatain. Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl dóibh go léir.

This special programme would not be possible without our amazing artists and our hosting partners in Britain whose ongoing commitment to the presentation of Irish artists is deeply appreciated.  I have had the pleasure of experiencing this at first hand.

In January I attended the first major event of the GB18 programme, Showcase Scotland at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, where Ireland was the focus country with six emerging Irish bands selected to perform. I then had the pleasure of attending a concert, Imagining Ireland at the Barbican in London where some of Ireland’s finest musicians performed to a great reception in the wonderful hall. Today’s performances include Loah, one of the highlights of the Imagining Ireland concert and it is wonderful to have the opportunity to share her special voice with you today.

This year of Irish arts in Britain does not of course stand alone. It follows centuries of cultural flow across the water, with artists cross influencing, firing each other’s imagination and collaborating, resulting I believe in an enrichment of culture in both countries.

2016  offers a recent example of our shared cultural interests when we gathered to plan  together how best Ireland could mark 400 years since Shakespeare’s death when at the same time Britain’s cultural institutions supported and played a significant role in the success of Ireland’s centenary celebrations.

The ebb and flow of artists continues – Irish artists benefit from a significant platform in Britain, with many staying for extended periods to live and create work there, achieving high profile careers while British artists are always welcome here. I am delighted that this week we have visiting writers from Britain for the Mountains to the Sea Festival in Dun Laoghaire and note also that the English National Ballet will open the upcoming Dublin Dance Festival with Akram Khan’s acclaimed version of Giselle.

We gather for this celebration of GB18 just a week after Irish artists made a global impact over the St Patricks Festival- and nowhere more so than in Britain.

For the first time ever Irish artists performed in all 33 London Boroughs and a special all-female showcase of Irish music took place at Camden Lock.  The Government of Ireland places a strategic priority on culture and creativity as the key outward expression of our identity and a critical basis for those wishing to engage with Ireland. The strengthening of our cultural links is especially critical now as our relation with Britain is undergoing changes within a European context.

We are still in the early stages of the year with many more exciting events to take place, including the Abbey Theatre’s production of The Plough and the Stars which has just started its run at the Lyric, Hammersmith. As set out in the initial aims of this initiative, events are planned to place with a geographic spread across England, Scotland and Wales and reach cities and towns outside of the main culture hubs. The programme offers an opportunity to engage and participate in theatre, dance, literature, film, visual arts and all genres of music and I wish audiences in Britain fun and enjoyment.

Culture Ireland GB18 is planned both to celebrate and renew the unique cultural relationship which exists between Ireland and Britain.

Mahatma Gandhi once said

“A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the souls of its people.”

That is surely true of both the Irish and the British. The GB18 programme aims to build on our existing relationships in Britain as well as forge new connections, which it is hoped will be further developed in future years, ensuring our close cultural bonds for the future.

One of Ireland’s finest poets, John McAulifffe, like many Irish artists, now lives in England and the readings of his work which he will share with us shortly eloquently reflect this. I will leave you in the hands of our artists who best express what it is to have inherited the creativity of their forebearers while reaching new audiences and forging their own career paths in a globalised world.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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