The Tyneside Irish Festival makes a welcome return and among its headline acts is a chart topping singer.

Liam O'Maonlai fronted the band Hothouse Flowers whose best known song, Don't Go, was a worldwide hit.

He will be appearing at the Tyneside Irish Centre on October 2 and will be accompanied by the hugely popular Jacquelyn Hynes on flute and whistle.

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Since the very first Tyneside Irish Festival – a weekend of Irish music in Newcastle back in 1987 – only 2020 has been without this growing annual celebration of Irish arts and culture here on our doorstep.

After the global pandemic forced cancellation of 2020’s festival plans, the Tyneside Irish Cultural Society has come back with a bang.

This year, the festival has been extended to run throughout the whole of October, kicking off on Friday October 1 at the Tyneside Irish Centre with the mighty fiddle and flute-playing of renowned musicians Dezi Donnelly and Michael McGoldrick.

Mike McGoldrick and Dezi Donnelly
Mike McGoldrick and Dezi Donnelly

These two great musicians are always in high demand, not only as a duo, but also as part of live bands and album sessions for hugely popular artists such as Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan.

Festival director Tony Corcoran, points out that the festival’s audience has changed somewhat over the years and that there is greater demand for a broader programme than ever.

He said: “We have seen huge changes in the Irish community here since the 1980s.

"Back then, the community was mainly made up of those who had arrived from Ireland in the 50s and 60s to look for work, living together, with some descendants of previous arrivals, in small communities centred on our own churches.

"There is now a new and younger Irish-born population here, which has been attracted by the professional opportunities in our superb NHS hospitals and health services, great schools and top universities in the region, and the myriad of businesses spawned by the economic regeneration of this historic city.

"These younger people have branched out from traditional communities and their culture has been assimilated into the mainstream in many cases.

“Irish culture is now so widely popular that it would be impossible for us to promote the kind of shows we used to; Bru Boru, Siamsa Tire, Christy Moore, Daniel O’Donnell, and The Brendan Voyage are all out of our league now.

"Instead, we concentrate on showcasing high-quality acts that might not be seen elsewhere and up-and-coming performers, as well as offering more specialist content.

“The festival is a celebration of one of the North's largest minority communities and is an invitation to all communities on Tyneside and across the North East to come together following a tough time.

"With musicians and other performers from both Ireland and the UK joining us, we are reminding ourselves of all we have in common and celebrating our shared heritage.

“We have spaced the programme out over the month of October and hope that makes it easier for people to attend more shows. The line-up this year is fantastic, and I take great personal pride in recommending every event and meeting all our supporters."

There is something in the festival for everyone. As well as a range of musical performances, there are music workshops, children's events, film, lectures, storytelling, and talks too.

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