Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Irish Eyes Smile on Tyneside; the Best of Music and Blarney Will See the Tyneside Irish Festival Celebrate Its 21st, as David Whetstone Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Irish Eyes Smile on Tyneside; the Best of Music and Blarney Will See the Tyneside Irish Festival Celebrate Its 21st, as David Whetstone Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: David Whetstone

IN the melting pot that is Tyneside, an Irish festival can run happily alongside an Afro-Caribbean festival and that is exactly what is happening this week.

The Sugar & Spice festival is a newcomer but the Tyneside Irish Festival has been around for a couple of decades. The 21st annual festival begins on Thursday and runs until October 21.

For the best part of a fortnight we will be treated to a first rate line-up of Irish music, storytelling, drama and dance - all put together by programmer Mike Doyle on behalf of the Tyneside Irish Cultural Society.

In the brochure Mike thanks Newcastle City Council, Arts Council England and the Dion fund, money allocated by the Irish Government to support Irish people abroad, for enabling it to happen. But he notes: "With the Olympic factor it is doubtful if we will be funded so well in the future, so make the best of it while you can."

This year's venues stretch from Alnwick to Middlesbrough with the action centred, as usual, on the Tyneside Irish Centre in the centre of Newcastle.

Thursday's opening night features Four Men And A Dog at the Irish Centre. Cathal Hayden (fiddle), Gino Lupari (bodhran, vocals), Gerry O'Connor (banjo, fiddle, guitar) and Kevin Doherty (vocals, guitar) play an eclectic brand of Irish music, absorbing jazz, blues, country swing and even salsa. The group officially disbanded five years ago but still gets together for special occasions - this being one of them.

Singer Declan O'Rourke follows at the same venue on Friday. Once known only to Irish music lovers, word of his talents has been spreading since the release of his debut album, Since Kyabram. Devotees are said to include Paul Weller, Snow Patrol and Kate Rusby.

Friday is also Titanic Night at the White Swan Hotel in Alnwick where the ballroom proudly bears the decorations and panelling taken from the doomed vessel's sister ship, the RMS Olympic. …

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