Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith
Celebrity supporter, TV presenter Eoghan McDermott told The Irish Post: “Kelly’s strong personal commitment combined with the energy and enthusiasm of everyone involved with the Irish Cultural Centre, has contributed significantly to its reputation as a leading national Cultural Centre for the promotion of Irish arts and education. Having fought a huge battle to save the Centre during the past two years, when its premises were put up for sale by the local council, and succeeding in raising the £1.5million to make the purchase, I have no doubt that there is a bright future ahead for ICC.”
Dublin-native Kelly O’Connor has worked as assistant manager at the historic Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith for two years. We went along to the Blacks Road site to learn more about their commitment to the young people within the Irish community across London.
Tell us about the charity and your role:
“We are a cultural centre, so our remit is Irish culture. But we are most known for education — we do adult programmes and children’s programmes, but we are unique in the depth and scope of the education services we offer here, from Irish music and dance classes in-house, to our outreach work with schools in the borough. My role is to support the General Manager primarily but as we are understaffed our small team’s work involves shifting from one role to another. I generally support everything that’s going on here, which is a lot.”
What services does the charity provide for Irish children?
“Our main children’s services are our Irish music and dance classes, our education outreach services, such as our St. Patrick’s School’s project – which reaches roughly 300,000 children in 3,000 schools in London, and our Culture Camps.”
How does IYF funding support your work?
“The funding we receive from the IYF supports our annual Culture Camps. We run these a few times a year, offering up to five days of camp here at the centre, devoted to Irish cultural activities. Each day has an Irish theme, maybe St Patrick, and they will work on it throughout the day — in drama, music, crafts, a whole range of activities. Most recently the funding allowed us to make a film to document the whole Culture Camp week, which we showed to the parents at the end of the camp. It was so touching, everyone burst into tears, those kind of things are very special. The IYF funding allowed us to create a document that marked a time, a place and an experience that these children had. It showed the magical element of what happens here, the friendships forged, the children coming out of themselves and finding new skills.
How important is the work you do for the children you serve?
“I think it’s vital that our children’s services exist. The work we do here for young people, you just can’t put a figure on the importance of it. You often get kids who change the minute they come in here, you find these little sparks which tap into something. Many go from being shy or quiet or really awkward to being able to stand on a stage and perform or play music. It’s vital in that sense.”
What does it mean to your organisation to be nominated for the IYF Hibernian Hero Award?
“Being nominated for this award is an honour for us. You rarely come up for air when you are focusing so strongly on building a programme and a future for the centre and the young people we serve, and we rely a lot on giving each other support — so it’s a really nice thing to be recognised from the outside. It would of course be wonderful to win. The IYF funding is so vital to protect our services so we’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for all their help and support over the years to date.”