A sensational parade kicked off a week’s worth of celebrations on Sunday
Luton’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival is finally back after a three-year absence, and crowds turned out in force to enjoy the party.
The event began with a traditional mass at Our Lady Help of Christians RC Church, before the parade at 12noon.
A colourful procession of merrymakers made their way from the Luton Irish Forum through to Market Hill, accompanied by the rousing strains of Irish bagpipes and the cheers of the crowd.
Residents were also treated to award-winning Irish dancing and performances from rising country music stars John McNicholl and Tracey McAuley.
The Mall hosted arts and crafts activities for children, and the party continued at the Hat Factory from 3-8pm with a variety of Celtic, folk and punk rock acts.
This year’s parade was particularly special as it included representatives from the Luton branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain for the first time.
The group collected over £3000 in donations and expressed a ‘heartfelt thank you’ to Luton Irish Forum for inviting them to take part.
Also among those celebrating were MPs Sarah Owen and Rachel Hopkins, representing Luton North and Luton South respectively.
‘A sense of community’
The events are organised by Luton Irish Forum along with volunteers and sponsors across Luton’s diverse community.
Noelette Hanley, the group’s CEO since 2006, said: “It’s been incredible… it’s quite emotional actually.
“I’ve attended St. Patrick’s Day festival ever since I was a child and I never tire of seeing the joy on people’s faces and the sense of community that it brings.”
Noelette admits to being ‘devastated’ when lockdown laws forced the last-minute cancellation of 2019’s parade.
“In a way, it makes it all the more special now that we’ve finally been able to go ahead with it,” she said.
“This celebration has been three years in the making!”
St. Patrick’s Day in Luton
Traditionally held on the 17th of March, the festival has been a staple of Luton’s cultural calendar since 2000.
The event commemorates the life of the patron saint of Ireland, a 4th century missionary and later bishop credited with bringing Christianity to the country.
Funds raised from the festivities help to support the welfare of those suffering poverty and distress, both within and outside the local Irish community.
St Patrick’s Day Afternoon Celebration is being held on Thursday, March 17 from 11am-3pm at the Celtic Club in Chobham Street, Luton.
Tickets are available from the Luton Irish Forum. For more information or to donate, visit their website.