St Patrick's Day: A festival of friendship between Aboriginal and Irish people in Australia

Kidogo Arthouse, in Fremantle, Western Australia, is a unique programme of performances and activities for the week that's in it, including live music, an International Rules friendly, and an international bread cookoff
St Patrick's Day: A festival of friendship between Aboriginal and Irish people in Australia

Traditional owner Walter McGuire, with Joanna Robertson at Kidogo Arthouse, Fremantle, Australia.

As Paddy's Day approaches, and our focus turns to the connections between Ireland and the world, one community in Western Australia is celebrating deep ties to Ireland with a unique, week-long festival.

The connection between Irish people living in Western Australia and the region's Aboriginal people is being embraced in Kidogo Arthouse's 'Hand in Hand' Festival, the first programme of its kind. Running presently until Paddy's Day, the festival has included live events, as, unlike Ireland, Australia is in the process of assuming post-Covid life.

Singer-songwriters Luka Bloom, Daoiri Farrell, SON (Susan O’Neill) and Steve Cooney and poet Tony Curtis are part of the Irish line-up, working remotely from Ireland and projected onto one of the venue's walls. 

Aboriginal performers include blues singer Olive Knight Kankawa Nagarra, The Yabu Band,  Dave Milroy & The Wilarra Band and double Grammy Award winner Lucky Oceans.

There's also been books, exhibitions, dance, a friendly AFL/GAA football match and even a bake-off that pits Irish soda-bread versus damper, an Antipodean favourite.

Producer and Artistic Director of Kidogo Arthouse, Joanna Robertson, originally from Dublin and a graduate in Fine Art from NCAD, says: “This is a celebration of two cultures that has never been done before. There are long familial and friendship connections between the local aboriginal community and the Irish people that arrived in Australia. This festival is an opportunity to recognise them and create new and exciting creative collaborations.” 

Robertson established Kidogo Arthouse as an independent arts centre 22 years ago, and runs professional development courses with Aboriginal artists at the venue, which is how she began to explore the connection between the two cultures.

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