THE London School of Economics will become a focal point for St Patrick’s Day celebrations in London tomorrow.
The prestigious, internationally acclaimed university will go green from 11am on March 17 until 1am the following morning, with a raft of musical, cultural, social and academic events featured among its bustling itinerary.
Celebrations kick off at 11.30am (doors open at 11am) at the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, where a panel discussion entitled Ireland and the UK: The Future of Anglo-Irish Relations will feature contributions from LSE academic Conor Gearty, former Secretary General to President Mary McAleese Tim O'Connor and Director of the Washington Ireland Programme Bryan Patten.
Activities continue throughout the day, with Irish dance lessons, language classes and a workshop tackling modern Irish stereotyping all taking place before the evening events kick off with a cider tasting session at LSE's student union bar The Three Tuns.
Despite the institution boasting Irish writer and political activist George Bernard Shaw among its 1895 founders, tomorrow's events will mark the first time the LSE has officially celebrated Ireland’s national day.
And its inaugural event is down to a group of determined Irish students who joined the university last October and quickly set about establishing an LSE Irish Society.
“There is an Irish LSE alumni group who I was in touch with before I came to start the Society,” LSE Irish Society founder and President Orfhlaith Sheehy told The Irish Post.
“I arrived here in October for my course and thought it was great idea to set up a society, so I posted it on Facebook and loads of students responded,” the Dubliner added.
While Irish societies have existed previously within the LSE campus, the current incarnation boasts at least 20 Irish student members and a further 20 international students.
And those international members were the focus of the first event hosted by the society — a trip to Dublin which took place last month.
“Most of the international members we have are from Asia, China or India, but we also have some American members and one student who is from Palestine,” said LSE Irish Society Tour Officer Michael Bruton.
“They were keen to see and learn more of Ireland so we organised a trip to Dublin which would take in some of the sights, a few tourist destinations and a taste of the social life,” the Trinity College Dublin graduate added.
But the primary functions of the society are to bring Irish people and people with an interest in Ireland together at LSE, while reinforcing a positive image of Ireland to the institution’s global community, the group confirms.
“One of the main reasons we set this society up was to bring all of us together in one way, but also to help spread the idea of Ireland and the good news stories of Ireland among the international students here at LSE,” LSE Irish Society Treasurer Lorcan O’Cathain explained.
“There has been a lot of negative press about Ireland in recent years, so we wanted to culturally immerse international students in the true nature of Ireland as often and in as fun a way as we could,” added the Athlone native, who is studying Political Economy at LSE.
Their next opportunity to bring the best of Ireland to the people of LSE – and the wider London community – falls tomorrow, where they reveal their jam-packed line up of St Patrick’s Day events.
“Our St. Patrick’s Day event is going to be huge,” O’Cathain said.
“It’s the first time the LSE will officially mark St Patrick’s Day and we have a £3,000 grant from the LSE Annual Fund to support our events.
“That funding is a first and a great achievement for us, so we are hugely grateful for that support as it allows us to do so much. We also have the full use of the new student centre for the day and have a lot of events already planned.”
The Dublin City University graduate explained: “We will host panel discussions on the day with top LSE academics and some speakers from Ireland. We will also have local Irish business leaders coming in to talk about British and Irish business relations, but also the links between Ireland and the EU.
“Elsewhere throughout the day there will be everything from Irish dance lessons and Irish language classes to live music in the pub and a range of other activities.”
While St Patrick’s Day events will take place at locations in and around the LSE campus in Holborn tomorrow, most activities will be based at the university’s new Saw Swee Hock Student Centre — which was designed by Irish architects O’Donnell + Tuomey and officially opened, to critical acclaim, in January 2014.