In honor of the 1916 Rising centenary, Irish Network-DC and the Irish Embassy will host a series of cultural events exploring Irish history and culture in Washington, D.C. over the year.
Next month marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, the insurgency that led to the Irish War of Independence and the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.
“This is who we are in 2016,” says Irish Ambassador Anne Anderson. “We want to be true to the historical legacy of 1916. At the same time, we know we have unfinished business on our island. We’re not complacent about the 100-year journey or where we have arrived.”
“We want to offer opportunities for people to explore different dimensions—the cultural, the political, the economic—in more depth,” Anderson says. “Culture is our most important calling card. And we want to be able to, yes with pride, celebrate the one hundred years, but through lectures and panels and those kinds of exchanges reflect and ask serious questions.”
Solas Nua, a D.C. based organization dedicated to contemporary Irish arts, is hosting the Solas Rising, which will include film screenings, book readings, theater, musical performances, and visual exhibits.
Paddy Meskell, the chairman of Solas Nua’s board of directors, told the Washingtonian that Irish cultural heritage has broad appeal in the capital city.
“In Washington, there are so many ethnic groups apart from the Irish, much of whose historical experiences are like Ireland’s,” says Meskell. “They were colonized, many of them got their independence in the 20th century, and many have come to America because the newly independent country didn’t deliver on its earlier aspirations and ideals.”
Solas Nua’s programming will examine Irish identity by taking a look at both the history of Ireland and the future of the country.
“Through contemporary Irish artists exploring how Ireland has managed its last 100 years, where have we done well, what forces have shaped us, what decisions have we made, that provides an opportunity for other ethnic groups to look at their own journey,” Meskell says.
The Kennedy Center will present Ireland 100: Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts & Culture, a three-week-long festival starting in May, featuring performances from some of Ireland’s best musicians, dancers, and theater companies as well as talks, a literature series, and other events.
The festival lineup includes Irish actress Fiona Shaw as the festival’s artist-in-residence; The Plough and the Stars, a play set during the Easter Rising, presented by the Abbey Theatre; contemporary dancers Jean Butler and Colin Dunne; world-class mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught and tenor Anthony Kearns; Irish ensemble The Gloaming; and authors Paul Muldoon, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, and Colm Tóibín.
“We want to update the legacy view of Ireland and promote the positive, modern, and educated reality,” Irish Network-DC’s Nick Rowan says. “Our nation has evolved extraordinarily since the Easter Rising of 1916 and we will examine that journey through the eyes of well-known Irish and Irish-American speakers, as well as consider the road ahead.”