City ready to get into the spirit of St Patrick’s Day

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SHEFFIELD starts its St Patrick’s Day celebrations today (Thursday).

The fourth Sheffield Irish Festival is being held on Devonshire Green and a marquee is opening on Fargate, both offering live music and other entertainment.

Activities on Devonshire Green are being organised by the Sheffield Irish Association, and the centrepiece will be a giant cube offering music and drinks promotions as well as coverage of the Six Nations Rugby match between Ireland and England on Saturday, St Patrick’s Day, from 5pm.

At night, the Sheffield Irish Live Lounge will be lit-up in Ireland’s national colours of green, white and orange.

The festival runs until Saturday.

On Saturday, mass will be held at 11.30am at Victoria Hall Methodist Church on Norfolk Street instead of St Marie’s Cathedral, which is closed for restoration.

It will be followed by a St Patrick’s Day Parade to Devonshire Green, led by a flag bearer, pipe band and Irish wolfhound.

Irish Association chairman Kevin Meagher said: “We estimate there are 50,000 Sheffielders with an Irish parent or grandparent – 10% of the city’s population – so this time of year is very special as our extended community celebrates its Irish heritage.

“The Irish came to Sheffield in the 19th century, following the Irish Famine, to dig train tunnels through the Peak District and later to work in mining and heavy industry.

“Now we come to the city as doctors, lawyers and academics too.

“We celebrate that advance but we always remember those for whom coming to Britain has often meant grinding hard work, discrimination and loneliness.

“This is why St Patrick’s Day is so important to the Irish. It is a day of remembrance and celebration.

“A chance to touch base, come together, raise a glass and say: ‘slainte’ [cheers!] with friends old and new.”

In a separately organised venture, a marquee will be on Fargate until Sunday. It has been erected for the tenth year, backed by Mark Simmonite, who runs Henry’s Bar in Cambridge Street, and volunteers.

Big screens will show the Cheltenham Festival and the England-Ireland rugby, and there will be live music, including Celtic Fling, who are flying from Limerick for the occasion.

“We always bill it as an Irish and multicultural celebration,” said Mark.

“It’s an opportunity for people from different backgrounds to celebrate together.”