A Mayo tourism weekend promoting the 270 forthcoming Gathering events in the west of Ireland has been hailed as a resounding success by organisers. The weekend was staged during this year’s opening weekend for the 2013 Manchester Irish Festival, which is Europe’s biggest Irish festival with some 200 events staged during its 10 day festival (www.manchesteririshfestival.co.uk ). Tickets for a series of concerts and plays sold out in advance and it attracted more than 2,000 visitors.
Tony Hennigan, one of the organisers of the tourism initiative, commented: “It was a fantastic weekend and everyone who managed to get hold of a ticket came away singing the praises of the performers from Mayo and Manchester. We hope to repeat the same experience when we visit north Mayo in the summer for our Gathering festival from August 1 - 9, I think Manchester might be a little bit quieter that week.”
The weekend was put together by Manchester-Mayo Gathering and it was sponsored by Mayo.ie and a group of local companies with Mayo roots in Levenshulme in south Manchester. Stories about its success were published all over the world reaching as far away as Australia, Canada, and America.
Martina Hughes from Mayo.ie said: “We were delighted to get involved once again in the Manchester Irish Festival, the largest festival of Irish culture and heritage in Europe. The strong links that exist between Mayo and Manchester are more than significant and the mayo.ie website is a great forum for the Mayo Diaspora in Manchester to connect and interact with Mayo people worldwide. We welcomed the opportunity to promote the gathering in Mayo and look forward to welcoming people from Manchester to Mayo to be part of the 270 events, festivals, and gatherings taking place throughout the county in 2013. The Atlantic Rhythm Production group were excellent ambassadors for Mayo and the Mayo weekend was an ideal opportunity to showcase Mayo and all it has to offer.”
A coach load of performers from the Atlantic Rhythm Production company from Crossmolina invaded Manchester and took the city by storm winning rave reviews for their performances at the shows. The group started off the weekend with a sell-out Manchester-Mayo Gathering concert on Friday March 8 at St Anthony’s Catholic Church. They performed with a number of Manchester’s premier Irish musicians and dancers including the three times World Irish Dancing champion and Lord of the Dance principal James Keegan. The show also featured an appearance from members of Ireland’s rugby squad.
On Saturday afternoon the group then performed another sell out show of their highly acclaimed play called An Emigrants Farewell at the new Irish World Heritage Centre. This was the first theatre production at the new £5 million centre. On Saturday evening they were invited to launch the festival in front of a packed VIP audience at Manchester Town Hall, where they met the lord mayor and police chief Sir Peter Fahey and a few other celebrities.
Finally on Sunday they performed at Mass at St Mary’s Church in Levenshulme and later on in the afternoon they performed their play again to another sell-out crowd who gave them a standing ovation in the parish centre.