It gives me the greatest pleasure to present the Chair's website report for the Irish Arts Foundation (IAF).
The core mission of the IAF is to raise the profile of the music and arts of Ireland throughout the region and to celebrate the many contributions that Irish people have made to British culture. We have continued to deliver the Foundation's objectives through innovative and high-quality activities. We note our enormous gratitude in particular for the continued support from Leeds City Council and the Irish Government through the Emigrant Support Programme, which enables our work to flourish.
Two major community-based events, The Leeds Gathering in November and Irish History Month in March (now embedded within our Community Participation and Learning Programme), form the bedrock of the IAF's activities and both are now integrated into the cultural life of the city. These festivals have strengthened awareness of the enormous impact of the Irish community in the region, whilst placing Irish traditional musicians and others working in the creative and cultural industries into the limelight.
We have continued to deliver an innovative programme of community events, performance and participatory activities and workshops, which has created opportunities for local artists and musicians to interact, and to enhance their repertoires and performance skills. We are also making Irish conversation groups available for language learners, enthusiasts or more fluent native speakers.
The ongoing collaborative work with Leeds City Council Museums and Galleries Services and Leeds Libraries offers further significant potential to widen our educational and cultural remit.
The Community Archive project 'Untold Stories: The Irish Community in Leeds ' remains an enormously valuable and well accessed resource. Connecting the generations of Irish people in Leeds through their shared history, this project demonstrates the very close collaboration between the Foundation and the local community and was the focus for several events over the year.
The implementation of our Strategic Development Plan (Sept 2019-August 2023) and our PQASSO (Practical Quality Assurance System for Small Organisations) accreditation provides a further focus to build on our past successes and continue to deliver high quality artistic work with sustainable outcomes. The PQASSO quality mark is endorsed by the Charity Commission as meeting the hallmarks of an effective charity.
The work of the organisation has been admirably led by our Chief Executive, Des Hurley and our new Development Worker, Christy Herron. The trustees are enormously grateful to them for their vision, energy and boundless enthusiasm. As a community organisation, teamwork remains essential for our continued success.
I would also like to thank the members of the board of trustees- including my predecessor David Cooper- for their support and also to the outreach workshop facilitators and the projects development teams for their hard work on behalf of the organisation.
Finally, on behalf of the trustees, I would like to offer our sincerest gratitude to all our funders, sponsors, volunteers and supporters. Without their financial and in-kind support, the work of the Irish Arts Foundation would be impossible.
The Leeds based Irish Arts Foundation (IAF) has a history of development and successful delivery of community-based performance events, participatory projects, local, regional, and national collaborative work.
With the invaluable assistance of ongoing support from Leeds City Council and the Irish Government through the Emigrant Support Programme, this has enabled the organisation to both consolidate and diversify our development in a structured and strategic manner
In these unprecedented Covid-19 times we have also been focusing on our online presence and sharing some of the best Irish traditional music and arts digital content and resources available.
We were mindful that many older or now more isolated members of our Leeds Irish community did not have access to the internet and might be more familiar tuning in and listening to our new fortnightly radio show ‘The Leeds Irish Music Programme’. East Leeds FM have been broadcasting regularly throughout the COVID-19 isolation period, both on the internet and, having obtained the temporary broadcasting license to do so, on the radio at 94.6FM between early June and the end of October 2020.
Our Irish Elders Cultural Project ensures that culturally relevant workshops in Irish heritage are directed towards members of the Irish community, including cultural workshops/performance and projects in collaboration with Leeds Irish Health & Homes: ‘Tea in the Park at Christmas!’, ‘Tree of Hope’ in early April, ‘Mayo Day’ on 1st May and, throughout June and July, ‘The Park Sessions’ - all adhering to guidelines in place at the particular times and dates.
The Leeds Irish Communities partnership, a COVID-19 response network, was established by a number of local organisations including Leeds Irish Centre, Leeds Irish Health & Homes, Leeds CCE (Irish Musicians Association), local Irish dancing schools, Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA) clubs and Irish Arts Foundation to protect the most vulnerable members of the Irish community in Leeds. The Irish Arts Foundation CEO and Development Officer assisted with ‘craic packs’ deliveries across the city during the Christmas and Easter periods.
Our project ‘Untold Stories: The Irish Community in Leeds ‘is a fully interactive website containing a documentary, the history of and research on the Irish community in Leeds. We were delighted able to use this resource to assist the editorial and research team on the Leeds Irish Centre anniversary publication ‘50 Years in The Making - Leeds Irish Centre 1970 – 2020.
We have assisted The Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds on an upcoming museum online tour (and physical in normal times) ‘Disease Street; hazards to physical health in the 1840’s’, making links to themes around immigration, including the inner-city area of Richmond Hill. Historically known as ‘The Bank’, Richmond Hill was the first area of settlement for the Leeds Irish community who arrived in the city during the Irish famine between 1845 and 1849.
The 11th annual Chapel FM Musicathon during mid December 2020 featured many musicians and artists from across Leeds, including traditional Irish music from Owen Spafford, Stuart Graham, and Des Hurley.
Irish History Month 2021 took place in vastly different circumstances this year due to the pandemic. With the continuation of restrictions on social gatherings and musical performances, our activity during the month was online.
Irish History Month this year provided the platform for the launch of our Arts Council England supported research and presentation, 'Exploring the Musical Traditions of County Leitrim & County Fermanagh.' The project also includes stories from the North Leitrim Leeds-Irish diaspora.
Throughout the month, 'The Leeds Irish Music Programme' continued on Tuesday evenings at 6:30pm on East Leeds FM. In addition to exploring different traditional Irish music historical regional influences and themes, the four programmes during Irish History Month caught up with local Irish organisations Leeds CCE (Irish Musicians Association), Leeds Irish Health & Homes, The Leeds St Patrick's Day Parade and Leeds Irish Centre. East Leeds FM have set up a standalone radio show page on their website to listen back to all the previous programmes in the series.
A specially commissioned concert, filmed on location at Otley Courthouse featuring the celebrated virtuoso partnership, Máire Ní Chathasaigh (Harp) & Chris Newman (Guitar), was streamed on Friday 26th March. This event was presented in collaboration with Irish Music & Dance London (IDML), as part of the 2021 Digital Concert Series with support from the Irish Embassy in London - 'Creative Communities Initiative'
Assistance was provided by IAF CEO as joint musical director in an anthology project publication, ‘Corona Ceoil' (Music in A Time of Corona') undertaken by Leeds Irish Health & Homes and renowned second-generation London born Leeds based poet Ian Duhig. who launched the project during Irish History Month and as on online event during Leeds Literature Festival.
Our Education Programme has resumed and adapted accordingly: in collaboration with Leeds Libraries, ‘Timeline’ an Irish cultural and historical exhibition was rescheduled for September 2021 in Moor Allerton Library & Community Hub in the northeast of the city, moving to Armley and Seacroft Library & Community Hubs in October and November, respectively.
Collaborative work continues to provide benefits to both the Leeds-Irish community and across the wider community in the city. We have made much progress sustaining, developing, adapting, and diversifying this area of our work during this financial year. Specific examples include partnership and collaborative project work with Leeds Museums & Galleries - ‘Sounds of Our City’ and ‘Sonic Stops’, Left Bank Leeds - ‘Creative Wednesdays Takeover’, Seven Arts- ‘Rush Hour Trad’, HEART- ‘Friday Night Live’ and Meanwood Community and Arts Festival. The links established with the newly established Irish Cultural Connectedness Exchange also provide networking opportunities for collaborative work on a regional and national basis.
Our thanks go to our numerous volunteers, from all age groups and backgrounds, for their continued in-kind support, effort, and involvement and to Jim and Maria Doody, Patrick Ruane, Bill Fry, Stuart Graham, Becky Taylor, Conor MacMahon, Roisin Ferguson, Kevin and Eve Hurley amongst the many other artists and musical colleagues, both locally and nationally, for their efforts - often at short notice! All are much needed, and their valuable enthusiasm help to keep us going!
We would like to thank our colleagues from the Outreach and Freelance Teams: Owen Spafford, for his efforts in the planning and joint presentation of ‘The Leeds Irish Music Programme’ and the 'Exploring the Musical Traditions of County Leitrim & County Fermanagh' project , Kevin Mullowney and Gerry Brownridge for workshop delivery leadership with the Irish Elders Cultural Programme, Alison Childs for strategic development expertise, Steve Procter from WYCAS and our Development Officer, Christy Herron for the effort, professionalism and commitment they have brought to their work and the organisation.
We would also like to thank Jeremy Morton from 'South Leeds Life'- a key community publication-and in Leeds City Council Sarah Howells from Leeds Inspired and Jennifer Rhodes from arts@Leeds for their collective in-kind support with publicity and marketing of our events.
I would personally like to thank our progressive and forward-thinking Board of Trustees who have been committed to support and see the vision develop. This provides a strong backbone to the organisation. I would like to thank them for their individual and collective guidance, expertise, and support throughout this past year.
Whilst we are aware that there are further difficult times ahead for the arts and cultural sectors: at the Irish Arts Foundation we will continue and collectively endeavour to deal with these challenges with integrity, innovation, resolve and commitment.