Thousands of visitors from Liverpool, London, Limerick, Derry and further afield gathered at Pairc Festival in the grounds of The New Irish Centre for a vibrant celebration of music and culture.
On Friday evening, Brummy band Ocean Colour Scene, supported by Birmingham’s up and coming outfit The Clause, got the event underway.
On Saturday, local comedian Jo Enright introduced The Birmingham Pipe and Drums band who started the weekend of celebrations.
First on the mainstage were local legends LAMPA and The Father Teds, before welcoming Dubliner Damien Dempsey, alternative band Hermitage Green and Beoga – known for their collaborations with Ed Sheeran including Galway Girl (see last week’s Irish World interview).
Stealing the show were veterans Hothouse Flowers who still have their flare (see this week’s Irish World interview p16-17)
They stunned the Birmingham crowd with their set.
The main event of the evening was headliner Imelda May (currently starring in sea shanty sequel Fisherman’s Friends: One and All) who wrapped up the evening with The Waterboys supporting.
As a final farewell she called up to the stage Damien Dempsey and Hothouse Flowers for a final session much to the delight of the crowd.
For the finale, the busiest day of the weekend, thousands travelled across the city and from Ireland for headliner Nathan Carter.
The day’s festivities were well underway with performances from popular local bands Bang on the Ear and On The Sesh.
The Sharon Shannon Trio and The Dublin Legends brought everyone to their feet before welcoming Finbar Furey to the stage.
After a four year hiatus he had decided, he announced, that this should be his final tour.
As expected, and as is his form, the ever popular Nathan Carter, in the main arena, had the whole audience dancing to Wagon Wheel.
Over at the second stage, The Irish Music and Culture Stage, programmed by partner the Birmingham Irish Association, there were trad sessions and performances all weekend long.
Local talent included Irish dancing from the Scanlon and Annie Kidd Schools of Dance and The Birmingham Pipe and Drums Band and contemporary five-piece trad band LAMPA.
Professor Carl Chinn delivered a talk on The Peaky Blinders and the Birmingham Irish Connection.
Other local talent who performed included Ash Sheehan, On The Sesh, Bang on the Ear, Cairde, Sereno and Rigmarole.
Festival director Ciaran Healy, who is Birmingham Irish and is also co-owner of The Old Crown in Birmingham, was delighted with the support for the festival which, he said, proved there is a real thirst for live music in the city.
He said “We were originally inspired by John Fitzgerald who owned Minstrel music and hosted bands at The Irish Centre.
“John told me about all the touring bands he used to bring over from Ireland and I always had ambitions to book in bigger Irish names to bring here but we didn’t have a venue.
“The Old Crown grew St. Patrick’s Day over the years, and we established ourselves, so naturally the next thing to do was move on to something bigger in the summer with more reliable weather.
“Without that conversation with John about all the bands we used to bring over, it probably wouldn’t have happened.
“We took inspiration from the Feis festival in Liverpool and I’m really keen to establish Irish culture and expand in the Midlands.
“I have my own connections to Ireland; we would always holiday there over the six weeks.
“We really soaked up the culture and it becomes integrated into what you are doing every day.
“The weekend and weather has been great. The infrastructure and stage worked well together. It’s a great site.
“Next year will be massive, I have already sent out some emails to artists and after our first year we will tweak and learn from the first edition of our festival to make it even bigger and better.
“The plan is to grow this and get everyone involved”.
Páirc Festival Awards
On Sunday evening Carl Chinn presented the Irish Music and Culture Awards to members of the West Midlands’ Irish community.
John Fitzgerald who was awarded for his ‘lifelong contribution to Irish music in Birmingham’.
Mr. Fitzgerald, who was once lead singer in a band called The Castaways, was a well-known and popular local music promoter and for forty years owned and ran the specialist Irish music shop Minstrel Music.
Local photographer Brendan Farrell was awarded for his fifty year career covering GAA, music, and dancing across the West Midlands.
Queenie Mulvey was awarded for her work at Birmingham’s Irish Centre with her late husband Noel Mulvey.
Local fundraiser Pat O’Neill was also awarded for his service to the Irish in Birmingham.
Organisers said that following the success of this year’s inaugural festival they intend that next year will be even bigger and better.