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FOUNDED in 2011, Mayo Manchester is an organisation that promotes business and tourism links between the city of Manchester and County Mayo in the Republic of Ireland.
Since the famine days the two places have shared strong links, with most Irish migrants heading to Manchester or Liverpool as a result of the mass starvation which occured in the mid-1800s.
This mass migration saw a lot of people from Mayo end up in Levenshulme, South Manchester; leading to the formation of the biggest Mayo diaspora outside of Ireland.
Now, still based in Levenshulme, Mayo Manchester work to promote and celebrate Irish culture within the two cities. Director Tony Hennigan gave Quays News an insight into the groups’ efforts.
“We organise festivals, but we also organise business and networking events in both Manchester and Mayo,” said Hennigan.
“The prime aim is on developing and promoting the tourism and business links between the two places.”
This final weekend in April marks the beginning of this year’s Mayo Day celebrations with three exciting events: a ‘Tradfest’ on Friday April 29; a Mayo Day Exhibition on Saturday April 30; and a Family Fun Day on Sunday May 1.
All three events will take place in and around South Manchester – the Tradfest at The Horseshoe Pub in Levenshulme; the Exhibition at Fred’s Ale House, also in Levenshulme; and the Fun Day at the Chorlton Irish Club.
The Mayo Day Tradfest, a traditional Irish song and dance event, begins at 8pm on Friday evening at the Horseshoe Pub. The function is free to attend, and will feature performances from a range of Irish musicians and dancers throughout the evening.
Manchester’s longest running pipe band Fianna Phadraig will kickstart the festivities in light of their 65th anniversary, and will be accompanied by renditions from the Reel Rhythm Dancers and renowned Canadian Irish folk band The Irish Rovers.
The night will come to a close with a session from award-winning musician Grace Kelly; Hennigan explained just how a session works.
“A session is not a concert as such, although you are allowed to watch, it’s really a sharing of music; musicians will turn up on the night and play along to the tunes that they know, if they don’t know the tunes, they will sit out and listen to the performances of the other musicians.
“It’s a way of educating musicians through playing together; they’re not doing it to make any money as such, it’s just about enjoying the sharing of music.”
Not only this, the Tradfest will be filmed by global network Irish TV, a 24/7 service that is accessible to over nine million people worldwide, and aired on Sky (Channel 191) at 8.30pm on Tuesday evening.
Following on from the Tradfest is the Mayo Day Exhibition: ‘From Ballina to Beijing’, which will take place at Fred’s Ale House.
The exhibition will feature a display of Mayo Day events that have taken place within the past year, from affairs in Ballina, the town that the Mayo Manchester group hails from, to the US, and even Asia.
Images: mayomanchester.com; fredsalehouse.com; healymacs.com
Rounding up the weekend is the Family Fun Day at the Chorlton Irish Club, with a small fee of £5 per family. A balloon race will kick off this final Mayo Day event in Manchester, and there will be a bouncy castle set up outside the club for the children.
The Fun Day will also include a family disco, and a piping workshop for the children who want to learn how to play the pipes, lead by none other than the Fianna Phadraig pipe band.
Later on in the day there will be an Irish dancing display from the Keegan Irish Dancing Academy, featuring Lord of the Dance star James Keegan, and Young, Gifted & Green choreographer Louise Keegan.
Grace Kelly and friends will wrap up the weekend with another session, and the three-day festival will come to an end at around 5pm.
While the weekend draws to a close in England, Hennigan will host a press conference at Dillons Courtyard in Ballina, informing the media about the forthcoming summer Tradfest; an annual six-day festival which takes place in Mayo from Friday July 29 to Wednesday August 3.
Hennigan will be accompanied by award-winning musician and star of the sellout ‘Paddy the Show’, Tommy Fleming, who will be performing one of the hits from the musical ahead of its forthcoming UK tour.
With events in Manchester firmly in place, and Fleming’s involvement in Sunday’s Tradfest promotion in Ballina, Hennigan believes that Mayo Day 2016 “will be a Mayo Day to remember.”