St Patrick’s Day Festival to shed boozy image

Jennifer Roxburgh, Charlotte Harris, Rachel McMullan, Amanda Foan and Laura Sharp at Portobello Promenade. Picture: Scott Taylor

Jennifer Roxburgh, Charlotte Harris, Rachel McMullan, Amanda Foan and Laura Sharp at Portobello Promenade. Picture: Scott Taylor

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ORGANISERS of this year’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations have gone off the booze as they attempt to shed the festival’s alcohol-soaked image.

Bosses behind the city’s fourth annual Festival of ­Ireland, which takes place this week, plan to show there is more to the Emerald Isle than just Leprechaun hats and drinking.

Festivities get under way on Tuesday with a week-long programme of “credible” Celtic culture lined up featuring dancing, readings, music and comedy.

The craic kicked off this weekend with a Riverdance-style flashmob of dancers gathering at The Mound precinct on Saturday.

Chairman Willie Haines said he wants St Patrick’s Day to be more family-friendly. He said: “It’s so easy to present this ‘kiss me quick, I’m Irish’ approach, but we think that Edinburgh has many opportunities to showcase the indigenous Irish culture.

“We felt the opening was there to present something other than drinking lots of Guinness and green hats.”

Organiser Jennifer Roxburgh added: “It’s fine if some places want to have a binge-drinking beer festival. But, for us it’s about involving the family, appreciating the music and coming together as a ­community.”

Plans include meet and greet sessions with famous authors, a St Patrick’s Eve music show at Summerhall on March 16 and a pageant along Portobello promenade.

Irish dancing will also play a huge part in the entertainment as Ms Roxburgh runs an Irish dance academy and Siamsoir, an award winning troupe of more than 60 dancers who will be performing at the Jam House on Saturday, March 15.

She said: “We teach everyone, from people completely new to it, to those who have danced as children and are coming back.”

Organisers expect thousands to attend the events – a huge feat for something which originally started out as a few friends playing folk music.

Mr Haines added: “It started out as a bit of a jam session in a pub, making Irish music with friends. One day a few of us just decided to get together and call it a festival. A bit like the origins of the Fringe.”

For full details on all events go to: www.edinburghsfestivalofireland.org