The pride of County Kerry and our very own lucky charm, Senior Artworker Olivia is as Irish as well, stout and soda bread. Who better to turn to for some St Patrick’s party pointers?
Tell us a little about yourself – what was it like growing up in Ireland?
I grew up in County Kerry, situated at the very bottom south west coast of Ireland. My Mum ran a nursing home in the small seaside village of Ballinskelligs where we lived until I was 17 years old (1995). In my last year of schooling, we moved 15 miles to the town of Cahersiveen, my father’s childhood home. Once back there, my father traded in being a fishing skipper to run the family pub ‘The Anchor Bar’ which had been run by my Granny and Granddad and my Granny’s mother before that [my Granny was actually a famous painter and playwright, in addition to running the pub!] As for Cahersiveen itself, it really is the most beautiful town with mountain views and the sight of the great Fertha river rolling straight into the Atlantic. If you ever take a trip to Kerry, it’s certainly worth a visit!
Was St Patrick’s Day always a big day in the calendar?
I did all my schooling in Cahersiveen, with both my primary and secondary schools run by Catholic nuns. Every St. Patrick’s Day, the school would get involved in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The school band would dress up in all their finery and walk through the town playing tunes, waving flags and banners in the hope of winning a prize. All the locals would get involved too – the local hospital, the scouts and brownies, business owners (and an Irish dancing troupe or three!) – all putting on acts and creating floats covered with streamers. Winning wasn’t important – the celebrations themselves were ample reward!
Would you say there is a formula for a perfect St Patrick’s Day?
Be sure to wear some Shamrock! When I was younger, St. Patrick’s Day involved the excitement of the parade, having a day off school - the potential thrill of winning a prize. Once older, it was more about soaking up the atmosphere, seeing friends and indulging in a Guinness! Now living in London, I tend to make a good old fashioned Irish meal and invite friends round, serving up a huge Irish stew, bacon and cabbage with homemade soda bread [see a recipe here] and ample whiskey and Guinness to drink. The only compulsory thing is to wear some green!
And what about activities to keep the little ones happy?
St. Patrick’s Day badges are a great way to keep them busy! Get together an array of green felt, feathers and ribbon and cut out Shamrocks from green card. Stick them all together and get Mum or Dad to attach them with a safety pin! Baking is always a great thing – make cookies or cake pops decorated with green and gold.
Are there any artists or songs we should listen to to get us in the mood?
Growing up, my Dad would always have traditional Irish singers on the tape deck, from Christy Moore to Tim Dennehy to Dolores Keane and The Dubliners. For a more contemporary twist, try U2, The Frames, Lir, Flogging Molly and of course The Pogues.
How will you be celebrating this year?
In recent years, I’ve met up with Irish friends and frequented the Irish pubs of South East London This year however, I’ll be visiting Amsterdam with my two favourite Irish lassies, my cousin Tara and twin sister Bev [and of course, we’ll be wearing green!]
Finally, Irish folk are known for their luck. What’s your lucky charm?
My little Leprechaun Smurf! Apart from that, I don’t really have one – being Irish brings enough luck!