Northern Ireland goes to Washington

Washington DC is to experience Northern Ireland’s arts and culture during a four month programme to promote arts, business, education, food and tourism.

Around 250 local people will be in Washington taking part in the Rediscover Northern Ireland programme and the Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Festival.

Details of both programmes were announced today in the Harbour Commissioners’ Office by Culture and Arts Minister, Maria Eagle.

 She said: “Launching at the Northern Ireland Bureau’s St. Patrick’s Day event on 15 March 2007, Rediscover Northern Ireland features over 40 cultural events which aim to raise US awareness of our region’s thriving economy, revitalised cities and unique culture. 

“The Rediscover Northern Ireland programme culminates in Northern Ireland’s participation in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival which will run from 27 June to 8 July 2007 on the National Mall in Washington DC. 

“Taken together the programmes are the largest international showcasing of Northern Ireland ever to take place and will illustrate the calibre and vitality of the region as a modern and contemporary society.” 

At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, up to 160 of Northern Ireland’s finest musicians, storytellers, cooks, craftworkers, sports persons and cultural experts will share with a million Festival visitors the living traditions that make and sustain the cultural life of contemporary Northern Ireland. 

Participants at the Festival will come from every corner of Northern Ireland and will represent the diverse culture in the region. Included in the number will be the Aughakillymaude Mummers, Belle Isle Cookery School, Muralists from Londonderry and Belfast, Ulster-Scots Community Dance Group, 2 and 4 wheeled motorsports, Genealogy experts and a hat maker from Islandmagee.

The Minister continued: “Northern Ireland has a diverse and unique culture and showcasing in America is an opportunity to demonstrate the amazing transformation that has taken place in recent years. Both the Rediscover Northern Ireland programme and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival are wonderful snapshots of Northern Ireland’s contemporary life. Now is the time to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight and show the world the real Northern Ireland.”

Dana Gioia, National Endowment for the Arts in Washington DC who visited Northern Ireland to help launch the Rediscover Northern Ireland programme said: "The National Endowment for the Arts is pleased to be a partner in Rediscover Northern Ireland. This program presents an astounding array of arts and cultural events for broad audiences in Washington, DC. With these superb events there will be no doubt that art is at the heart of the new Northern Ireland."

Sheila Burke the Smithsonian's deputy secretary and chief operating officer added: "We are delighted to be working with a wide range of organisations to bring Northern Ireland's rich cultural heritage to the 2007 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The Smithsonian looks forward to welcoming Northern Ireland's musicians and artists to the National Mall in Washington DC where they can share their traditions with the Festival's one million American and international visitors.”

Maria Eagle proceeded by paying tribute to all of the organisations and businesses that have contributed to the Rediscover Northern Ireland through sponsorship and in kind. In particular, the Minister highlighted the work of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland which has funded, organised and arranged many of the events. 

She said: “It really is an excellent programme of events featuring some of our best artists and without the Arts Council’s amazing network of connections with the arts world here and in the United States, none of this would have happened.” 

For further information on the Rediscover Northern Ireland programme or Northern Ireland at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival go to www.rediscoverni.com


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