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

“It’s a perfect time to celebrate diversity and inclusion in Ireland and Irish America, 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 presented the 2024 Irish Arts & Writers Festival, a weekend celebration of diversity in Irish and Irish American arts and culture, paying tribute to a new generation of artists and performers. The weekend included a concert by Lúnasa, presented by the Presidio Theatre, and concluded with a day featuring a selection of writers and historians exploring aspects of identity and creativity. The closing night event headlined 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.

The Look of the Irish: Celebrating Diversity in Irish Arts – Friday, March 22, 7.30pm

An evening of art, dance, music, and conversation exploring the work – and experiences – of Black and mixed-race artists and performers from Ireland and the Bay Area, celebrating racially diverse Irish artists and writers, including Leon Diop, co-author of “Black & Irish: Legends, Trailblazers and Everyday Heroes” (Dublin, Ireland); Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi, poet (Galway, Ireland); Maïa Nunes, performance artist (Dublin); Dr. Phil Mullen, Professor Black Studies, TCD; Megan Lowe Chinese Irish dancer/ choreographer (Bay Area). Special guest Manas Itene, world renowned drummer and unique vocalist from the Isoko tribe of Nigeria, closed out the evening.

Lúnasa – Saturday, March 23, 7.30pm

Presented by the Presidio Theatre

From Wild West Ireland to the Caribbean – Sunday, 3/24, 2-4.30pm 

(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 spoke about the exhibit (on view in the theatre lobby) and took us on a historic journey to an Ireland of bygone times.

(2.20pm) 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.”

(2.40pm – 3.20pm) Connecting Ireland and the Caribbean: Dr. Miriam Nyhan Grey and Dr. 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 Dr. 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

(3.20pm – 4.00pm) 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, spoke 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, including Transatlantic (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, Apeirogon (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 was in conversation with Kelly Candaele. Candaele is a writer, filmmaker, organizer and former elected official. We were joined by special guest Irish-born violinist (aka “genius fiddler”) Colm O’Riain.
Thanks to Culture Ireland and the Consulate General of Ireland, San Francisco, without whose support this festival would not have been possible. Thank you to sponsors: United Irish Cultural Center; The Irish Literary & Historical Society; Irish American Crossroads Festival; Irish American Artists & Writers. Thanks to media sponsors: 48 Hills; SF/Arts; The Irish Herald.  Questions and information, contact CATHERINE BARRY: [email protected] | *DONATE TO IRISH CULTURE BAY AREA*
Previous Irish Arts & Writers Festivals 201820172016