“The Look of The Irish” Festival – March 22-24

Tickets available at Presidio Theatre
Questions and information: [email protected]

“It’s time for Irish America to celebrate diversity and inclusion in Ireland, and there’s no better way than to showcase the work of the talented artists and performers that are contributing to the rich open-ended Celtic knot of multiculturalism” – Festival Founder and Artistic Director, Catherine Barry

Irish Culture Bay Area in partnership with the Presidio Theatre presents the 2024 Irish Arts & Writers Festival, a weekend celebration of diversity in Irish arts and culture, paying tribute to a new and diverse generation of artists and performers. The weekend includes a concert by Lúnasa, presented by the Presidio Theatre, and concludes with a day featuring a selection of writers and historians exploring aspects of creativity and identity. The closing night event headlines National Book Award-winner Colum McCann.

“Congratulations to Irish Culture Bay Area and the Presidio Theatre for developing this year’s wonderful Irish Arts & Writers Festival, “The Look of the Irish,” celebrating the contributions of our diverse community and enriching the tapestry of Irish culture and identity. The festival reflects modern Ireland— a country that is open, inclusive, welcoming, and one that is very proud of all its people.” – Micheál Smith, Consul General of Ireland, San Francisco

Sponsored, in part, by Culture Ireland and the Consulate General of Ireland, San Francisco

The Look of the Irish: Celebrating Diversity in Irish Arts – Friday, March 22, 6.30pm

Join us for an evening of art, dance, music, film, and conversation exploring the work and experiences of Black and mixed-race artists and performers in Ireland and the Bay Area. “The Look of the Irish” Opening Night Reception (6pm) and show (7.30pm) celebrates racially diverse Irish artists and writers, including (both live and streaming): Leon Diop, co-author of “Black & Irish: Legends, Trailblazers and Everyday Heroes” (Dublin, Ireland); Monjola, Alternative R&B artist (Dublin); Maïa Nunes, performance artist (Dublin); Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi, poet (Galway, Ireland); Megan Lowe Chinese Irish dancer/ choreographer (Bay Area); Tolü Makay, singer (Westmeath, Ireland) (tbc)

The evening begins with an introduction by Consul General of Ireland, San Francisco, Micheál Smith.

Lúnasa – Saturday, March 23, 7.30pm

Lúnasa was formed in 1997 from members of some of the greatest Irish groups of the previous decade, with an early review from Folk Roots magazine describing the band as an “Irish music dream team.” From the start, the band’s complex arrangements and unique sound reshaped the boundaries of traditional music and energized audiences the world over. Critical acclaim followed, and the Irish Echo describes the band as the “the hottest Irish acoustic band on the planet.”

From Wild West Ireland to the Caribbean – Sunday, March 24, 2-5pm

(2pm) Western Ways: The Photographs of Helen Hooker O’Malley, with Cormac O’Malley

“Western Ways” is a unique collection of images taken in the 30s and 40s in Co. Mayo, Ireland, by photographer and sculptor Helen Hooker O’Malley, wife of renowned Irish republican and writer, Ernie O’Malley. The couple’s son, Cormac O’Malley will speak about the exhibit (on view in the theatre lobby) and take us on a historic journey to an Ireland of bygone times. O’Malley was born in Ireland and came to live in the U.S. with his mother when his father died in 1957. Following a career in international corporate law, Cormac has focused on the literary and artistic heritage of both his parents, including the publications of books not published during their lifetimes. 

(2.35pm) Rewilding The Mind – Decolonization Through Literature

Emer Martin’s is a radical, vital voice in Irish writing, as she challenges the history of silence, institutional lies, evasion and the mistreatment of women across mid-to-late twentieth-century Ireland.

Two families inhabit this immersive polyvocal work, an intergenerational saga announced with The Cruelty Men (2018) and continued here with Thirsty Ghosts (2023) as punk rockers and Magdalene laundries spiral into a post-colonial Ireland still haunted by its tribal undertow. Scenes surface from Ireland’s mythological past, Tudor plantations, workhouses and industrial schools, the Troubles laid bare, the transformative pre-digital decades playing out in this propulsive narrative. 

We are at the end of a deceptive violent system of colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchal white supremacy where we viscerally feel the future arriving already exhausted. Writing and art can be used to decolonize through the creation of new realities beyond what we have available to our individual imagination, says Martin. Art and writing can untangle the deceit of a suffocating system that has alienated and depleted both us and the earth for centuries under colonization. We can be reinvigorated through stories. Stories can be medicine. Becoming free people and writers and creators who are engaged actively in decolonization doesn’t mean detachment. Freedom means supporting each other and reinfusing our art and lives with the numinous connections that have long been suppressed. Art and writing are where this starts, because just as we need to rewild the earth we also need to rewild our minds.”

(3.15pm) Connecting Ireland and the Caribbean: Dr. Miriam Nyhan Grey and Maria McGarrity in conversation

Dr. Miriam Nyhan Grey‘s current research agenda is animated by the intersections of race, ethnicity and imperial legacies in the Irish diasporic experience, with a special interest in the United States and the Caribbean. She has recently returned to Ireland after a decade and a half at New York University where she was Associate Director of NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House, Director of the MA in Irish Studies, NYU’s Global Coordinator for Irish Studies and co-director of the oral history collection at the Archives of Irish America. A founding board member of the non-profit organization African American Irish Diaspora Network in 2019, Miriam is also the originator of the innovative and ongoing “Black, Brown and Green Voices” program. She is currently Assistant Professor of History at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick

Maria McGarrity is Professor of English at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York, She has been published in several journals including the James Joyce Quarterly and The Journal of West Indian Literature. She has published two monographs, “Washed by the Gulf Stream: the Historic and Geographic Relation of Irish and Caribbean Literature” and “Irish Modernism and the Global Primitive” and “Caribbean Irish Connections.” She is especially interested in how Irish diasporic communities in the Americas negotiate identity and belonging. In association with Crossroads Irish American Festival

(4.15pm) African-Irish Women: Institutions and Identity. Dr. Phil Mullen and Author Emer Martin in Conversation

Dr. Phil Mullen, Associate Professor of Black Studies, Trinity College Dublin. Dr. Mullen, who grew up in the industrial school system, will speak about how Black and mixed African-Irish women  – who went through the Irish institutional care system without families – construct their identity. Dr. Mullen will be in conversation with Emer Martin (author “The Cruelty Men” and recent sequel “Thirsty Ghosts”)

Colum McCann – Sunday, March 24, 7.30pm

Dublin-born Colum McCann is an international award-winning author of eight novels, includingTransatlantic (2013) and the National Book Award-winning Let the Great World Spin (2009). 
His new book, American Mother, tells the story of Diane Foley, whose son, James Foley, was captured and killed by ISIS while serving as a freelance combat reporter in Syria.

“American Mother is a book that will shake your soul out. A thriller, a memoir, a mystery, a portrait of forgiveness, and a literary song of grace, Colum McCann and Diane Foley have filled the empty chair for us all. One of the most extraordinarily well-braided stories that I have read in years.” – Sting

McCann’s eighth novel, Aperigon (2020) shares the story of two men—one Israeli, and one Palestinian—whose daughters died in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. McCann shares their story in what he describes as a “novel that has not the two-state solution, but the two-story solution.”

McCann will be in conversation with Kelly Candaele. Candaele is a writer, filmmaker, organizer and former elected official.  He covered the Northern Ireland peace process for the Los Angeles Times and has written extensively for the New York Times, The Nation, The Guardian and is a contributing writer for Irish America Magazine.  His documentary films include A League of Their Own, about his mother’s years as a professional baseball player, and “When Hope and History Rhymed,” about the Good Friday Agreement.

Books available on-site through our authorized bookseller, Book Passage

Previous Irish Arts & Writers Festivals