NOTTINGHAM IRISH STUDIES GROUP
the story so far…
The group was formed in 1991 by a group of first and second generation Irish people in Nottingham. At the time there was some optimism that The Troubles in the North of Ireland might be coming to an end. There was also a sense of dynamism and creativity about Irish arts and culture, particularly in literature; in the theatre a new generation of young Irish playwrights were having a huge influence on Irish and British drama.
We wanted to explore some of these issues and to make the debate accessible to the whole Irish community in a way that university-based academic Irish Studies courses tend not to do. We also wanted to reflect the whole spectrum of the local Irish Diaspora, first and second generation, Catholic, Protestant and dissenter and those with strong political views or none at all. We ran courses in Irish politics, literature, drama and film.
We had classes in Irish cooking, drama and language. We invited speakers from every conceivable discipline – and some very very ill-disciplined ones! We had some memorable moments: Ronan Bennett and Glenn Patterson on alternate weeks debating culture in the north of Ireland and The Troubles; Christine Kinealy on the 150th anniversary of The Famine; and Brian Behan on … well, on Brian Behan. As with most community groups, the direction of what we do is determined by those who have the time and energy to develop projects. In 2000 we produced Making it Home, a book and photographic exhibition looking at some of the memories of Irish people living in Nottingham.
We have also organised three very successful conferences: Changing Ireland (2003); Changing Ireland 2 (2004) and Insiders/Outsiders (2005), and we ran an Irish Studies Day at Loughborough University in 2012. Members of the Group have helped to run Irish language, reading and drama groups (see Archive Diaries).
We organise one-off events on literature, history, politics, and other aspects of Irish culture. We run occasional storytelling for schools, and other cultural events as part of Nottingham Patrick’s Day celebrations,which have now grown from one day to an annual Irish festival in March. We work closely with the members of St Patrick’s Day Parade Committee.
Since 2013, our most popular partner and venue has been Five Leaves Bookshop – an award-winning independent bookshop, who provide us with wonderful support. Another keen supporter is Broadway independent cinema. We have attended many Irish films there, and occasionally provide an introduction.