Derby enjoys dancing, music and 'the craic' as city's Irish celebrate St Patrick's Day in style
St Patrick's Day celebrations took over Derby Market Place on Saturday, with dancing, singing and a parade. Sophie Evans reports
THEY are so good at having fun that they have their own word for it – and this weekend 'the craic' was certainly in evidence as Derby's Irish population celebrated St Patrick's Day in style.
The party got under way with a parade of traditional dancing and infectious music that soon had the city centre swinging along.
Brian Johnson was taking part for the first time since moving to Derby, from Derry, in 2006, and was enjoying every second.
The Derby city centre resident said: "St Patrick's Day brings the whole Irish community together. It's chance to let everyone know that you're Irish and you're proud of it.
"Whether we're from Northern Ireland or southern Ireland it's a patriotic celebration."
The events began on Saturday with a parade from the Market Place to St Mary's Church in Bridge Gate, followed by a civic mass at 11am.
After mass, the parade returned to the Market Place, through Iron Gate, headed by the Birmingham Irish pipes and drums band.
Hundreds of people followed, waving flags and enjoying the party atmosphere, wearing greens and oranges.
It ended in the Market Place with performances from students at Glendarragh academy of Irish dancing, based at the Irish centre on Becket Street.
Liz Smith, from Alvaston, was taking part in the celebrations with her family.
Liz, originally from Dublin, has lived in Derby for the last 11 years and is a regular at the St Patrick's Day events.
She attended the mass service with her husband, Sean, and her two children, Niamh, eight, and Ciaran, three.
She said: "It's wonderful having such a big celebration here in the city where we live, so far from Ireland.
"For me, St Patrick's Day is very important and a way of connecting with the origins of the Catholic faith and about our history and heritage."
Her brother, Patrick Kelly, said: "I came to Derby to visit Liz for two weeks about 10 years ago and I never left. I just stayed.
"I met my wife, Hannah, here and we got married last year.
"Having things like this going on is so important to us. It's a way to think about home and connect with Ireland and the Irish community here in the city."
Michael Lynott found himself at the head of the parade, with his two young children, waving a flag.
He said: "St Patrick's Day is a great cultural event and should be celebrated all across the world.
"It's incredibly special to me and it's amazing that it's such a celebration here.
"My two children, Niamh and Erin, who are six and five, haven't been to Ireland much and events like this are a way of immersing them in to the culture and the heritage Irish traditions."
Singing on the stage, constructed especially for the event, was Sean O Se, who travels to the UK every year from Cork for St Patrick's Day.
He said: "This is my 49th year travelling across the sea to England for St Patrick's Day. And I've been coming to Derby for about the last 20 years at this time of year.
"Seeing all the young people dancing and taking such an active part in the celebrations is incredible.
"They all work so hard to show off their skills in competitions and at events like this. What better time to be doing it than at St Patrick's Day?
"It's always a great atmosphere in Derby and everyone turns out in their hundreds to celebrate."
Noleen and Ady Turner were watching the parade with their two children, Molay, who is nine today and Jessica, six, who were donning Irish flag-coloured ribbons in their hair and shamrock-shaped green glasses.
Noleen is originally from Ireland and now lives in Littleover.
Ady said: "We're going over to Ireland at Easter to visit family who still live there. It's a great tradition and it's so important that it's celebrated across the country.
"For the girls it's great, as they can come to these events and share in their heritage."
Tony Walsh, the secretary of the St Patrick's celebration committee, said the whole weekend was a big success.
He said: "The parade was amazing this year and we would like to see the pipe band back again in the future.
"The number of people that poured out on to the streets of the city as we passed shops and cafes was incredible. There were hundreds just watching.
"It was a spectacular event, the best yet."