San Francisco Irish Center Enters National Spotlight

The Center has been selected to host the 2023 Big Irish Campfire conference in San Francisco on August 24 and 25. The Campfire will bring together civic leaders, entrepreneurs, business leaders, politicians, and representatives from Irish Centers all across America and Canada to discuss matters relevant to our communities, share ideas, and develop long term strategic partnerships around Irish arts and culture programming. The Big Irish Campfire Conference is the brainchild of Máritín Ó Muilleoir, Publisher of the Irish Echo in New York. It was first hosted in New York in 2019.

NICCoNA Annual Meeting — The annual meeting of the Network of Irish Cultural Centres of North America took place in New York City on January 13. Hosted on the 17thFloor of the Consulate General of Ireland, New York office at 345 Park Avenue, there was a great exchange of ideas and discussion centered around Irish artists performing in the US, immigration issues around visas for touring artists, and financial support for Irish Centers to host and underwrite programming originating from Ireland. The Irish Ambassador to the US, Geraldine Byrne Nason, was present, as was Sharon Barry, Director of Culture Ireland, and New York Consul General Helena Nolan. I made several new connections with representatives from various Centers around the country and we will be developing those relationships as we move forward into 2023.

New York Irish Arts Center — While in New York City I had the opportunity to visit the recently opened $60 million dollar Irish Arts Center at 51st Street and 11th Avenue. Executive Director Aidan Connolly graciously hosted all of the visiting NICCoNA conference attendees. The new building is a very impressive21,700 square foot space dedicated to Irish arts and culture which plays host to a range of artistic programs throughout the year. As part of the tour, we were treated to a spectacular showcase of new theatrical productions being produced in Ireland and touring the US in 2023. Fishamble, a Dublin based theatre company, will visit the Center in May to produce “The Humours of Bandon.”

Following the conclusion of the showcase and the reception that followed, I filtered out of the building and into the New York evening. On my walk back to my midtown hotel I envisaged our new home at the corner of45th Avenue and Wawona Street. I felt very confident that we too could have a similar destination and hub for Irish arts and culture back home in San Francisco. I have no doubt that with the groundswell of initial UICC member support, philanthropic, corporate, local, statewide, federal, and national government of Ireland funding that we can make it happen. I asked myself the question – Could we build it? – and came to the conclusion of a confident YES WE CAN!

NYC Theatre Scene — I was flabbergasted to learn that there is a very robust Irish theatre scene in NYC. There were Irish plays and dramas staged off Broadway almost every night of the week during the month of January alone, with two to three different offerings each night. Theatre-goers are certainly spoiled for choice!

Spotlight on education — Our community’s current eighth grade students and high school seniors were kept busy over the holiday period applying to high school and college, as part of the next steps on their educational journeys. Now that all those applications have been completed, it serves as a reminder that the Leo T. Walsh Scholar-ship program is now accepting applications for 2023. The deadline is Friday March 17, with winners to be announced in May.

Building and Facilities — The onset of a series of powerful ‘Pineapple Express’ storms and bomb cyclones that marched across the Bay Area in late December through the first two weeks of January put the Center’s roof to the test. Though installed back in1999, and despite the record rainfall, we are happy to report that the roof held up. We made some repairs to the heating system in the St. Patrick’s Room in late December. Thankfully those repairs did not impact our holiday parties and celebrations held during the festive season.

Irish Secretary General Visit — On January 23, along with our co-hosts at the local Consulate’s Office, we welcomed the Irish Secretary General Joseph Hackett to the Center. I had an opportunity to present details of the 2025 project, while the United Irish Societies and SF Youth GAA presented their plans for the season a head.

Grand Marshal Dinner — Pat Uniacke will be honored as the Grand Marshal of the 2023 St. Patrick’s Day at the Center on Friday February 24. The theme of this year’s parade is “Hurling into the Future.” Youth Gaelic games will take center stage this year as they host the Continental Youth Championships in the East Bay City of Dublin next July over a four-day festival.

Kennelly Memorial Feis — We hosted the Kennelly Memorial Feis mid-month with more than 200 step dancers taking to the stage, some of them for the first time, to ensure the continuation of the tradition for years to come.

Youth Music Classes — Music classes have resumed for the Spring. Thanks to the generous support of those who donated to our 2022 Year End Annual Appeal, we have thirty kids signed up to participate in banjo, fiddle, bodhrán, guitar, singing, tin whistle, and piping classes. Drumming classes resume on February 2.

Amateur Boxing —The UICC is teaming up with Fire in the Ring Boxing to showcase a night of amateur boxing at the Center on Saturday March 18.

The Black Brothers — Michael and Shay Black will present a concert of songs and music to kick off the St. Patrick’s festivities on March 3rd at the Center. Button accordion player Félim Egan and keyboardist, Eamonn Flynn will join them on stage.

St. Patrick’s Season — It’s hard to believe that the St. Patrick’s season is almost upon us again. We look forward to a great lineup of Irish music, singing, dancing, and hearty corned beef and dinner cabbage. The parade takes place on Saturday, March 11, with St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday.

Liam Reidy, President