Where: Fuxing Park and Yandang Lu, Luwan District （复兴公园进雁荡路）
From: 10:30 am to 1 pm, Saturday 13 March 2010
By Claire Barco
Though the last few days have been abysmally cold, don’t let that deter you from pulling yourself out of your hangover on Saturday morning (helas, if only you could find Solpadine in Shanghai!). Ireland Week 2010’s main event is the St. Patrick’s Day parade and will surely make you forget all those things you shouldn’t have texted the night before, and as there won’t be any fire trucks, you don’t need to worry about the headache.
Shanghaiist caught up with Eoin Murphy, President of Le Chéile, the Irish community organization of Shanghai. (Le Chéile is pronounced “Luh Kay-luh” and is Irish for “together”). We got the skinny on the all the craic that will be had this year. Read on below!
This is the fourth year for the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Shanghai. What will be different about this year?
Well, it’s grown over the last four years and we’re expecting this year to be our biggest yet with few thousand people. We have an impressive stage this year on Yandang Lu and the whole event will be very professional.
Who are the performers this year?
During the parade we have two marching bands from local international schools. One of them is over 90 people, so that should be impressive. Also we have some children that have been practicing traditional Irish dance, and they will be singing some songs as well.
There will be, as well, two Chinese dance troupes that have been learning Irish dance from the Riverdance DVDs. One is called Celtic Storm, and they actually trained with the Riverdance troupe when they were here in January. Bill Whelan himself was actually here, and he mentioned how impressed he was with these dancers’ enthusiasm to learn, even if all they had was a DVD when the started. The other troupe is from Fudan University. Now they have an exchange programme with UCD in Dublin. The students that go there definitely gain a huge appreciation for Irish culture, and it’s just a great example of how academic exchange can lead to cultural exchange.
As an organization Le Chéile is very proactive in promoting this kind of exchange so we’re very proud to provide an opportunity for these dancers and musicians to showcase their talent.
Also on the stage we’re lucky to have some traditional musicians flying in from Ireland. They are technically the most proficient artists you can find, so we’re very pleased that the Irish government sponsored their trip here.
I find some people don’t actually know much about real Irish culture. They think all the Irish do is lock themselves in the pub all day, but they aren’t aware that there is real tradition and culture to be found there.
Yeah, you know there’ s a big connection between Chinese music and Irish music. For example I was listening to a violin lesson my son was having with his tutor, and it was “Down the Sally Gardens”. The tutor told me it was a traditional Chinese folk song that all Chinese students learn when they’re first starting out on the violin, but it was in fact “Down the Sally Gardens”. So sometimes you will have something Irish that everybody knows, but nobody knows is actually from Ireland. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade offers an opportunity to showcase Irish talent and allows the Shanghai community to connect that talent, the music and dance, with Ireland itself, so people aren’t just listening to Enya in yoga classes thinking she’s American.
Who are some of the guests at the event?
Well, we have a piper from Newfoundland coming in to lead the parade. You know there are only two other places in the world that celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as a national holiday. One is Montserrat in the Caribbean and the other is Newfoundland, so we’re very excited to have him.
In terms of VIPs we have a very senior Chinese official as the Grand Marshall who I can’t pre-announce, but you’ll see him wearing the green jacket. He has very strong ties to the Irish so we’re simply over the moon to have him. We have officials from other consulates as well, including the US consulate, Italian consulate, Swiss consulate, and Danish consulate.
We’re really developing a good buzz this year. It’s not just about Ireland, it’s about expressing Ireland’s, I suppose, appreciation of every nationality and trying to bring them together. I think St. Patrick’s parade is a unique event in that it’s now happening all over the world. You know, millions of people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s a very cultural, peaceful and celebratory kind of event.
And it’s just good fun.
Absolutely. It’s good fun for everyone.
And what is it I saw about the dragons in the parade?
Yes, we have two dragons, Finbarr and Shamrock. They’re beautiful. They are Chinese dragons but they’re green, and they are absolutely gorgeous.
One thing I should mention is that our naming sponser is the Ireland Expo Pavillion, and that they will be providing a preview of the Ireland Pavilion. There will be a number of booths set up for the Expo there near the stage. Our other sponsers are Pepsi Co, Murphy’s Irish Stout, Tourism Ireland, and Bord Bía, which is the Ireland food board.
How long approximately will the parade take?
The parade itself starts sharply from Fuxing Park at 10:30, not 10:30 Irish time (which is anywhere from 10:30 to 12). It will take half an hour for it to reach Yandang Lu where there will be about 2 hours of performance on the stage.
What should Shanghaiist readers know about this St. Patrick’s Day parade?
We’re the only national group allowed to have a parade on Shanghai’s streets. No other national group is afforded that honor. And we would want ensure that the event is respectful that honor.
**(Note: This means don’t show up pissed and start a fight.)**
And we can guarantee that it will be a great family day out where everyone will feel included and will enjoy themselves.
Are there any other events around town for Ireland Week that would be of particular interest?
Well, the Shanghai International Literary Festival is showcasing a number of Irish poets this year. And on Friday night from 6 pm to 7 pm there will be an event for the musicians to get used to playing on the main on Yandang Lu that anyone is welcome to attend.
There’s also the St. Patrick’s Ball on Saturday night, which is the largest charity ball in Shanghai now in it’s sixth year. However, for this year the tickets sold out in about 10 minutes, so it’s the main event to be at.
For Americans, St. Patrick’s Day is a tradition. Every year, you go out to your local main street. There’s always the Leprechaun contest where the kids dress up. And last year in Dublin the parade just had so many American marching bands coming over from Texas and Nebraska. So with a St. Patrick’s Day parade you get not only Irish culture, but in a strange way American culture.
Yes, the parade in Dublin has really transformed into an international carnival, and that’s what we’re really trying to do here as well on a smaller scale. As we were telling some of the officials, you know every great city has a St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Shanghai is a great city. This parade is getting on to be the largest in Asia and we’re getting very enthusiastic about where we can take it next year.
So this Saturday morning get yourself moving and bring the children, or if you haven’t got any bring your mates that surely act like children, to this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. You can start on the pub after.