TOURISM bosses hope Irish eyes will be smiling on a new scheme to promote the culture of the Emerald Isle in Sunderland and Durham.
Organisers of the initiative are planning to build upon Irish events, such as the Sunderland leg of the international Rose of Tralee beauty contest, to further showcase what Ireland has to offer.
Seamus Whelan, who runs Sunderland’s Rose of Tralee contest, met Margaret Mellor, from Tourism Ireland, at Finbarr’s Irish restaurant in Durham City to discuss plans.
“It’s in conjunction with a major initiative in Ireland called The Gathering,” he said. “Around 70million people worldwide claim Irish heritage and this year-long event reaches out to Irish communities and encourages them to come home for an event and bring their friends with them.”
As part of the programme, Seamus is putting together a group of musicians from the North East who will travel to Ireland to take part in major events.
It will include a performance at this weekend’s Irish Derby horse race.
He added: “There’s always been a lot of links with Sunderland and Ireland, in sport and music. There was the connection through the football club and the Drumaville Consortium for a number of years, but even before that, Irish people moved to the area to work in the coal mines and shipyards.”
In return, it’s hoped that people can learn more about the culture of Ireland.
The Gathering kicked off in spectacular style at a New Year’s Eve Festival in Dublin and is being celebrated through gatherings of people and Ireland’s major festivals during 2013.
It’s aimed at showcasing and sharing the very best of Irish culture, tradition, business, sport, fighting spirit and the uniquely Irish sense of fun.