Robust performance in 2022 augurs well for 2023
Having finally wrangled loose of the stop-start nature of the post pandemic reopening in April – the Center has been fully open and at full capacity for the past eight months. I am happy to report that we had another strong year of activity and delighted to see that our cultural programming offerings were enhanced aswell. Several highlights come to mind as we look back on 2022. The kids music program commenced in January and continued into the second half of the year. We hosted “The Keepers of the Steps” history of Irish Dance exhibit, and the Annie Holland photographic exhibition. A spectacular St. Patrick’s day season of festivities raised our spirits. A well attended summer music fleadh -Rock the Gates; and performances by a variety of acclaimed Irish and Irish American artists including Eileen Ivers, Gregory Harrington, Ardal O’Hanlon, and Derek Warfield entertained our members and visitors from the community. Well done to all those who helped make it a strong year of recovery in our arts and culture department.
The end of this month marks the four year anniversary of the closure of the Center at the end of December 2018. At the time the Irish American community was still reeling from the announcement the previous October that the facility was closing. Heading towards insolvency the board had the most difficult task of shutting down UICC operations. Declining restaurant, bar and banquet activity forced the closure without much fanfare, despite last minute widespread opposition.
Truth be told – we were all shocked and hugely disappointed at the time. I still miss the restaurant – the availability of potato leek soup with corned beef and cabbage in any month of the year that was not March is hard to come by anymore!. The once great meeting, celebrating and eating place for the Irish had fallen on hard times. Like all commercial enterprises – if you don’t have enough regular customers providing support to your business -you will fail no matter what you do, even if you try to cut back on expenses.
Much of the recent great work in the turnaround story at the Center has been driven by new board members who joined the board in the spring of 2019. Driven by a decades old connection to the center many of the new faces on the board grew up at the Center. Losing the restaurant was a blow to the community especially to the generation that built the Center. These new board members knew what it meant to their families in the Sunset. There was little other motivation needed to help right the ship.
Now as we enter 2023 and five years on since the Center temporarily closed – we are in a much better financial position to meet any future economic headwinds and building towards the 2025 Project. Over the last few years we have developed and installed a financial framework that will serve the Center well into the future as we build out a self sustaining Center. While the restaurant remains shuttered, almost all other aspects of the Center are back and open to the community.
There are transitions occurring this month at Board level. We are thankful for all those who have served in various capacities during their term and also glad to have other people ready to step up to serve on the board. Come to the UICC Christmas social on Wednesday December 14th to see a review of 2022, and to thank the board members stepping down and those coming on board. Refreshments will be served. Festivities start at 7pm, and the social will be followed by a wonderful Talk by Gregory Crouch on John Mackay, a miner that struck it rich in the Comstock Lode, Nevada in the latter half of the 19th century.
2022 Annual Appeal — Many charities are busy fundraising at this time of year – The Center is no different as we appeal for philanthropic support to broaden our Irish arts and culture offerings in 2023. Next spring we will host three theatre productions and several new musical acts in the pipeline for the Center. Kids music classes return in January as does the annual summer camp next June. Annual appeal donation forms arrive at UICC member households this month.
Library and Scholarship Raffle — Many thanks to all those who have purchased and returned raffle tickets in support of the Patrick J. Dowling Library and Leo T. Walsh Scholarship programs. The lucky winners will be announced on December 8.
Keepers of the Steps Roadshow — There was great interest in the history of Irish dance traveling exhibit among visiting dancers and teachers at the Western Regional Oireachtas Irish dance championships held downtown at the Hotel Marriott Marquis last month. An invite from the 2023 Phoenix, Az., Oireachtas organizing committee ensures more exposure for the Center next year.
Membership — Our member roll continues to grow. Looking for a Christmas gift idea? Give a UICC membership this year! See ad in this month’s bulletin.
Bumper Bulletin — This month’s bulletin is the largest monthly bulletin we have ever produced here at the Center. The content reflects the level of community participation and Center activities during the past month.
Festive Shows — We welcome two Christmas shows this month to the Unitied Irish Cultural Center. An Irish Christmas performs on December 1 and The Fire’s Very Scottish Christmas on Friday December 9. Tickets online at irishcentersf.org
Annual Boutique — Local artisans, vendors, chocolatiers, and crafts people will have plenty of Christmas gifts to offer at the Holiday Boutique on Saturday December 17th. Santa Claus will make a special appearance. Festive holidays music by David Melamed & Friends. The Irish Shoppe will be full stocked and Irish meats available in the run up to Christmas.
Rest In Peace — Sympathy is extended to the family and friends of William Shaw (predeceased by his wife Elaine) and Julia Gowen (predeceased by husband Michael) who passed away recently. William is a former member of the band “The Irish Connection” who played for many years at the Center.
On behalf of the Board of the Center I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.