Popular traditional fusion band set to headline the Tyneside Irish Festival

Popular traditional fusion band set to headline the Tyneside Irish Festival

THE traditional Irish band Perfect Friction will make their British debut this week when they headline the Tyneside Irish Festival.

Now in its 31st year, the popular event takes place over eight days, with one of the highlights being the concert by the Co. Wicklow group, which kicks off at 7pm on Saturday, October 21 at the Tyneside Irish Centre in Gallowgate Street, Newcastle upon Tyne.

The band features traditional musicians the Cullen sisters, Lottie (uilleann pipes) and Courtney (fiddle), who will be joined by All-Ireland champion accordion player Debbie Byrne and Anton Bracken on guitar.

Of course all Irish bands deserve a bodhrán player, and, in Eddie Kavanagh, Perfect Friction have one of the best.

In 2012 they recruited the charismatic and versatile singer Louise Kelly, a graduate in Voice and Dance from the University of Limerick, who has performed all over the world and was even chosen to sing for the Dalai Lama.

Together the six-strong group have created an original sound, mixing modern and classic pop hits with their distinctive Irish backing, and an unforgettable stage show, featuring their incredible dancing skills.

Following an early appearance on RTE’s Late Late Show, they have yet to look back, now preferring to spend their time performing at prestigious festivals across Ireland and around the world - including the Fleadh Cheoil, the Templebar Tradfest and a six-month residency with Disney World in Orlando, USA.

However, their stint at this week’s Tyneside Irish Festival will mark their first performance in Britain, and sees them join an already bustling line-up.

Elsewhere on the schedule there is story-telling, live music, educational events and much more.

The week kicks off with a Festival Opening Event at the centre at 5pm on Sunday, October 15, which will feature “a multicultural extravaganza with performers from across the world” the organisers explain.

Among those taking part are Irish singer Muhammad Al-Hussaini and harpers Fiana Ni Chonaill and Lizzie Affolter.

It will be followed with a ceili from 7pm, featuring the Newcastle University Irish dancers.

For those who prefer a breath of fresh air, a Newcastle city guides walk will also take place that day, entitled When Paddy met Geordie, which will reveal why Irish refugees fleeing the Famine were welcomed on Tyneside.

An audio/visual history lesson is on offer at the Festival on Monday, October 16, when RTE’s Paddy Cullivan tackles the events surrounding the Easter Rising.

“Using satire, imagery, historical insight and song, Paddy reveals the ten strangest things (and darkest secrets) that happened during the Rising, revolution and civil war,” Festival organisers explain.

Tyneside’s Irish elders can enjoy a special Raised on Songs and Stories event being held at the centre on Wednesday, October 18 from 12.30pm.

Musical favourites Dermot Hegarty and Sally Glennon will bring some live Irish music to their lunchtime gathering.

On Thursday, October 19 a Tyneside Irish Cultural Society Adult Education Open Night takes place at the centre from 7-9pm.

The event is free to attend and offers a taster of the classes currently on offer at the venue – including Irish language, art, creative writing, Irish music and a book club and drama group.

The well-respected musical duo Dezi Donnelly and Michael McGoldrick hold court at the centre on Friday, October 20 – with a concert supported by Belfast-born singer/songwriter Anthony John Clarke.

Youngsters can enjoy a session with Pat ‘the hat’ Speight the following morning (October 21), when the Cork storyteller appears at The Word, South Shields over two sessions from 11.15am to 12pm and from 12.30pm until 1.15pm.

The family fun continues on Sunday, October 22 with a Family Ceili being held at the Tyneside Irish Centre from 12.30pm-3pm.

The afternoon will feature a magician, face painting and an Irish dancing display among other activities.

The Festival closes with a performance by the Co. Wicklow band The Navvies from 7pm on Sunday, October 22, which the organisers describe as “a real hooley to close the festival”.

The Tyneside Irish Festival runs from October 15 - 22, for tickets and information visit www.tynesideirish.com or call 0191 2610384.