Thursday, 17 October 2013

The London Irish Comedy Festival

Published in The Irish World newspaper 16th October 2013

It is no secret that the Irish are nearly always up for having the laugh and no more so was this evident last weekend than at Camden’s London Irish Centre. Leah Quinn went along to see was there much craic afoot at their London Irish comedy festival.


The comedy festival ran through the weekend and showcased many of Ireland’s best loved comedians such as PJ, Gallagher, Maeve Higgins, Andrew Maxwell, Neil Delamere and many more.


This, the second only year for the festival, attracted a hefty response with many London Irish attending to hear some of their favourites from TV back home.


PJ Gallgher headlined Friday’s gig along with Aisling Bea, Neil Delamere and John Colleary on MC duty. PJ Gallagher had the audience in tears for most of his act with the usual energetic and endearing childlike performance for which he is well known. PJ’s opening joke about the lack of romance in modern day rap music opened the room to another level of laughter which echoed on two jokes later.


Speaking to PJ, from RTE’s Naked Camera show, he told me why he thinks the Irish are so famed for their comedy skills “It’s our thing really. We were always huge story tellers and writers and we haven’t had much going for us for hundreds of years except for music and culture and story telling and that’s what we are known for, which is good, it’s certainly better than being known for large cars and squeezy cheese.”


The festival featured another three shows on Saturday, one of which was Captain Gingerbeard by David Burke – a comedy show targeted at kids. Later in the day Jarlath Regan recorded a live interview for his podcast Irishman Abroad with actor and comedian Brendan Dempsey. Although this held more of a relaxed conversational quality than that of the gig the night before, it was still enjoyable and a nice prelude to Saturday nights comedy gig.


The festival began last year as the brainchild of Maria Schweppe, now the London Irish comedy festival director. She told me that preparation started nine months previous to the festival but is expected to start straight after this years event as the festival continues to grow.


“I think last year was very much about building a relationship with the agents and the comedians so as that is in place this year the festival has a very good reputation and the quality of the line up is obviously quite high. People came along last year and had such a good time they are coming back this year and bringing their pals so we are extremely pleased with this year’s response to the festival”.


Maria also added that there are many more exciting things to come for the future of the festival, some of which will be the return of the comedy tent in Trafalgar Square for London’s St.Patricks day celebrations, and a quarterly comedy club that will be hosted by a different comedian. Each act will have free reign of what they want to do within their slot, be it music, comedy theatre or the spoken word.


All in all the centre put on a thoroughly enjoyable and welcoming weekend filled with many the hearty laugh. Judging by the reaction from those who attended, I expect it only to get bigger and better in the coming years so if you didn’t manage to get tickets this time, mark it on your calendar for next year.














Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Forty Years of Clannad

By Leah Quinn

Published in The Irish World on 02/10/2013

Thursday night saw many of the London Irish gather together in celebration of 40 years of Clannad at the Irish Embassy in Victoria. The Irish band, from Donegal’s Gweedore, first formed in the 1970’s and have continued to produce their own unique blend of Celtic music since then. This year sees the launch of their first album of new material since their 1998 release of the Grammy award winning Landmarks.


Nadur, meaning nature in Irish, is the first album since 1989 with the original line up of siblings Moya, Ciaran and Pol Brennan and their twin uncles Noel and Padraig Duggan.


The evening was hosted by the Ambassador of Ireland, Mr. Daniel Mulhall and his wife Mrs. Greta Mulhall who took the opportunity to formally introduce himself in his new role and to remind his guests to regard the embassy as the focal point for the Irish community in Britain.


Clannad then joined the stage and kicked off with their melodic Scotch Gaelic song Turas Dhomhsa chon a Galldachd from the new album. This was followed by Citi na gCumann which had been given to them by Moya’s grandmother.


Speaking at the event, Moya Brennan told The Irish World she believed staying true to what they stand for as a band has lead to them to reach the forty year mark and taking short breaks which enabled them to return with enthusiasm for their music.


Moya also spoke of the nerves she experiences as a young girl before one of their first performances at a music competition in Letterkenny and how holding her mothers hand gave her comfort when she wasn’t sure they had what it took.


Forty years later, Moya describes how fans can expect the same distinctive Clannad sound from this their 18th album along with some fresh new influences.


Originating in their family pub in Donegal, the bands trademark sound and unique  take on Celtic musical tradition has built them a strong global fan base with over 15 millions albums sold worldwide.


During their time, Clannad have produced music such as the theme for Harry’s Game, and the soundtrack to Robin of Sherwood the TV series. Moya, Ciaran and Pol are also siblings to the well-known singer Enya, who originally played keyboard in the band.


Their album, Nadur, is due out this month and Clannad will be touring globally with Mary Black to coincide with its release. The tour will have 15 UK dates including London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire theatre in March 2014.