Interview with Danny Boyle – St Patrick’s Day Festival Organiser

16 Mar

A few days ago I posted about the St Patrick’s Day Festival in Glasgow (you can read it here) which will be coming to an end this weekend after a full week of gigs and events throughout the city. Many of the events have been held inside the Merchant Square and so far I’ve heard nothing but good things about them. I was lucky enough to be able to meet with one of the organisers, Danny Boyle last night in Merchant Square who was happy to answer a few of my questions on the festival:

Am I right in thinking this is the first St Patrick’s Day Festival Glasgow has had?

It’s the first time we’ve moved it into the city centre and it’s the first time we’ve had a whole week of programmed events in the city centre. In previous years we’ve had one off gigs in the city halls and most of the events are dotted around the city. This year we still have some events around the city but we’ve also consolidated the Merchant Square and the city centre for the full week.

What kind of events are provided at the festival?

St Patrick’s Day is a showcase of Irish culture in Scotland so all the different facets of culture that fall underneath that like music or language or dancing or sport are included in the festival. In the city centre venue we have a full week of gigs trying to cover a broader spectrum to cater for everybody’s needs – something that’s going to appeal to different musical tastes. We had Michael McGoldrick playing on Saturday who is a traditional Irish musician who is also broadening himself out into more contemporary music as well – he was away playing with Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan – so that ticked a lot of boxes for us in terms of what we’re trying to do. Last night we had Jill Jackson who’s more of a country-pop singer and tonight we’ve got Paul McKenna playing with the Comhaltas ensemble who played at Celtic Connections then the Wakes who are Glasgow’s version of the Pogues. So we just try to cater for all different tastes – there’s tons going on though, there are ceilidh’s at the weekend in different areas of the city, then in here [Merchant Square] on Saturday the 17th we’ve got a family day which is running from 12-5 and a two masses – a cultural facet of the Irish community, one in Irish and one in English.

What’s your favourite event of the festival so far this week?

I really enjoyed ‘Gaels Le Chéile’ night on Sunday which is Maeve Mackinnon, a Scottish singer and Gráinne Holland who’s an Irish-Gaelic singer and they did a concert down the stairs [Teach Padraig] which had a really nice atmosphere and it worked really well – I really enjoyed that.

Have you organised any other events like this in the past or is this the first?

I helped organise the St Patrick’s Day festival last year. We also used this venue before in May and put on something in conjunction with Tourism Ireland which was called ‘Donegal Live’. Last year was the first year of this event and it was in here [Merchant Square] in the main square. We got about 8000 people attending during the day so that’s what we’re hoping to achieve again on Saturday for St Patricks Day.

How successful do you personally feel the festival has been so far?

It’s hard to gauge until the end of it and you’re always your own worst critic! We’ll evaluate that once everything’s done.

How are you getting local talent involved?

I grew up in Glasgow and I was a musician –

What did you play?

The flute – a wooden Irish flute. I grew up in Glasgow as a musician playing gigs at different places and made a lot of great friends and contacts and it’s through these people that we have the people playing at the festival this week – you can just ask them if they’ll support what you’re trying to achieve and develop which they recognise and agree to take part in the festival – I owe a lot of favours to people!

Was there any opportunity for anyone to sign up to play?

Yeah, tomorrow [tonight, March 16th] is Battle of the Bands so people can enter that no bother at all across any musical genre. The winners get a gig the next day [Saturday 17th] as well as a gig at the festival next year and some studio time with Celtic Music Radio.

That sounds great! Did you get any schools involved?

Yeah, we had an education concert on Tuesday in the city halls and had around 800 kids from across Glasgow attending and performing. We ran some music programmes at local primary schools so we had about forty-five children performing at the event as well – education is a big part of the festival.

Can we expect a return of the festival next year? I’m sure the answer’s yes!

I hope so yeah, definitely! Just looking forward to getting this one finished and relaxing for a few weeks but then you need to start planning next year’s festival pretty much immediately after this one. There will always be a St Patricks Day Festival in Glasgow, it just depends on what scope or frame-work it takes. We’ve certainly put in a lot of work this year to do it and we look to consolidate that and build on it in the future.

Is there anything you’d change about the way the festival turned out this year when planning next year’s event? Would you change the venue maybe?

I think because this is the first year we’ve used this venue and it’s the first year this venue has ever been used for gigs, so I think it would be fair to come back to it again next year to let people know about it and experience it. There’s always  things you would change – hindsight is a great thing, but everyone’s put in 100% effort this year and I couldn’t fault that – so I wouldn’t change anything I don’t think.

Well I think it’s great so far – it looks like a complete success! Thank you so much for letting me talk to you.

I hope so, I’m glad you like it! Thanks very much. 

It was great to be able to chat to Danny and get a bit more information on the event which seems to have been a complete success. Get yourself down there tonight for the Battle of the Bands and for the events tomorrow – you won’t be disappointed!

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