Annie Harrington, Mary Murphy, Christine Fahy and Mary Talbot enjoy the celebrations and, below, Orlaith and Brogan Brogan McAuliffe provide traditional Irish music, while Councillor Pat Callaghan, Irish ambassador Daniel Mulhall, Mayor Jonathan Simpson share a toast with David Barlow
Published: 14 February, 2014
By PAVAN AMARA
THE Town Hall celebrated 60 years of the London Irish Centre this week, with a lively reception hosted outside the council chamber.
Mayor Jonathan Simpson welcomed dozens of the centre’s volunteers, the Irish Ambassador to Britain Daniel Mulhall, and the family of late singer Amy Winehouse who have supported the centre, located a few doors down from Ms Winehouse’s former Camden Square home.
Councillor Pat Callaghan spoke at the canapé and drinks reception.
“I am so proud to be Irish,” she said. “The centre has been at the heart of our community for decades. When I was growing up in Camden in the 1950s and 1960s, Camden was known as Ireland’s 33rd county. If you turned a corner, there was someone from home. If these walls in our Town Hall could speak, you’d hear accents from Connemara to Wexford, from Donegal to Cork. The Irish dance halls in this borough were the meeting place for many a couple, who went on to have a family and brought up children who were Irish at their core.”
In 1954, Father Tom McNamara started the centre within two houses in Camden Square. It then grew to become the organisation it is today, which Cllr Callaghan described as “legendary” and “working to help the needy”.
David Barlow, who is the centre’s CEO, said the celebrations would continue for the rest of the year with a “Father Ted Festival” in August and music concerts throughout 2014.
The Amy Winehouse Foundation was thanked by Mr Barlow, after the centre received a £21,000 grant in 2012 and launched a partnership with the centre.
Amy’s father Mitch said the centre was doing important work, even after 60 years, as it helped young Irish immigrants coming to London for work.
“Young people can think the streets of London are paved with gold,” he said.
“Then they get here and they can end up in debt or difficulties, and the centre is there for them when they need help. It’s not just for Irish people though, it’s the centre for the community in Camden Town. Whenever I go in there, there are black people, white people, all colours, so it’s not just for Irish people, it’s a very inclusive place.
“Amy would often sit on the wall of the centre and she got friendly with a lot of the older girls. They would look after her. It was a home for her.”
Mr Winehouse attended the reception with his wife Jane, Amy’s mother Janis, and her partner.
Annie Harrington, 82, said the centre had given her “the best holiday of my life”, when she was taken to County Kerry in Ireland last year.
She added: “It was perfect. I have never had a better time. But this is what they do for us you see, they take us to places, we see things we wouldn’t get to otherwise. The centre is a place where we meet friends, we do quizzes together and it stops us feeling lonely.”