Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia

Exile Shane HowardA vibrant tapestry of stories, imagery and music celebrating the rich Irish influence in this country, Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia brings together some of Australia and Ireland’s finest artists and musicians.

A tribute to the influence Irish exiles and descendants have had on Australian life, Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia presents the stories of convicts, rebels, refugees, politicians, poets and musicians using music and visuals. Through it all runs the irrepressible energy of the Irish and the ability to turn melancholy into jubilation through humour, song and a reeling jig.

The Exile project involves the collation of historical and culturally significant material, songs, still and moving images, poetry and spoken word, as well as the creation of new works. Eight artists have been handpicked to perform new interpretations of significant songs and four new created works that reflect the Australian Irish experience.

From Australia, Exile provides an opportunity for the legendary Paul Kelly, Shane Howard, Leah Flanagan and others to explore their own Irish heritage. Paul Kelly’s Irish family settled in Clare, South Australia in the 1850’s and Shane Howard’s Irish family settled in that most Irish of Australian settlements, South West Victoria, around the same time. Howard’s great-grandfather was arrested at the Eureka Stockade, in 1854.

The influence of Irish exiles and descendants looms large in Australian life. From convicts and political prisoners like ‘General’ Joseph Holt, John Mitchel, William Smith-O’Brien and John Boyle O’Reilly, through to Peter Lalor’s leadership of the Eureka Stockade, Ned Kelly’s declaration of the Republic of North East Victoria, Daniel Mannix’s anti-conscription campaign and Prime Ministers like Ben Chifley and Paul Keating and the latter’s seminal ‘Redfern’ speech.

Almost a third of the Australian population claim some degree of Irish descent and Irish influence flows through all aspects of Australian life, from the First Fleet to modern day. There is no denying the contribution that the Irish have made to Australian society. It’s certainly varied but rarely dull.

The most cataclysmic event of Irish history was An Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger when, between 1846 and 1850, one and a half million people died of starvation and disease and as many fled in utter desperation, on boats to America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

It’s timely to reflect upon this history and contribution in the centenary year of the 1916 Easter Uprising, an event that served as the catalyst that led to Ireland achieving nationhood and her long dreamed of Republic, after centuries of occupation and oppression.

Through it all, flow the stories, the poetry and the songs, that enrich the complex story of Australia’s settler culture. Exile draws together these influences in a vibrant and moving celebration of the history and the bold contemporary imaginings of the distinctive Australian Irish story.

Exile: Songs & Tales of Irish Australia
Hamer Hall – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Saturday 20 February 2016 – 8.00pm
Information and Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

Festival Theatre – Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Street, Adelaide
Performance: Sunday 21 February 2016 – 7.00pm
Information and Bookings: www.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au

Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Road, Marrickville
Performance: Wednesday 24 February 2016 – 8.00pm (highlights from show)
Information and Bookings: www.factorytheatre.com.au

Concert Hall – QPAC, Cultural Precinct, Southbank (Brisbane)
Performance: Monday 29 February 2016 – 7.30pm
Information and Bookings: www.qpac.com.au

For more information, visit: www.exileconcert.com for details.

Image: Shane Howard (supplied)