William and Emma
The Irish Cultural Centre has successfully negotiated a challenging decade to emerge as one of London’s most exciting arts, culture and community hubs
When talking about the Irish Cultural Centre (ICC) in Hammersmith, two points are worth emphasising. Firstly, you don’t have to be Irish, or have Irish family roots, to cross the threshold. And secondly, it is a wonderful community focal point, hosting an imaginative programme of musical, artistic and educational events and social activities for all ages.
Tucked away off the Broadway, the ICC is rather a well-kept secret. ‘Even though we’ve been here since 1995, many people don’t realise the scope of what we do,’ agrees William Foote, the Centre Director. ‘And, to some extent, given our rollercoaster existence over the last few years, that is perfectly understandable.’
That turbulent period began in 2011, when it was mooted that the Centre be replaced by a housing development. The Board met with the council and a compromise was agreed: the ICC raised £1.5 million to buy the freehold and an agreement was made with a housing association. Under its terms, the Centre kept the ground and first floors and affordable accommodation was built above that.
The old premises was duly demolished in 2013 and, four years later, today’s smart new building opened its doors. Then, no sooner was it up and running, than the pandemic forced another closure. ‘But now, at long last, we feel that we’re really back in full swing,’ says William.
The ICC programme divides into three core areas: culture, community, and education. ‘Everyone is welcome to come and enjoy the best Irish creative talent,’ explains Emma Byrne, the Marketing Manager. ‘We host concerts – people can bring their instruments and join in our free Friday night traditional sessions – literature discussions with contemporary Irish writers (Colm Tóibín, Edna O’Brien), ceilidhs, theatrical performances, film screenings, comedy gigs, art exhibitions and classical recitals. In addition, we put on a monthly gig showcasing emerging, mostly young artists from Ireland and London and run creative writing courses and workshops.’
Among other regular dates are tea dances with a live band, a Singing and Reminiscing group for older people, a ‘knit and sit’ get-together, exercise and Set Dancing classes and a monthly Book Club.
For children, there are storytelling events and, of course, Irish dancing classes for girls and boys over four-years old and music lessons (fiddle, bodhrán, tin whistle, harp, concertina, guitar and flute) for eight years-plus as well as adults. ‘We’re seeing more second, third and fourth generation Irish people who want to learn about their roots,’ says Emma. ‘For them, and anyone else who is interested, the Education programme features lectures and classes on the Irish language and literature (accredited by the University of Liverpool), the History of Irish Art and our new library will be open before Christmas.’
When they are not in use, the spaces at the Centre are available for hire for seminars, conferences, workshops and private parties. The Main Hall has a seating capacity of 180 and state-of-the-art concert facilities, the Mezzanine is perfect for drinks receptions and there are three fully equipped meeting rooms.
‘We’re very much part of the community,’ says William. ‘We run live, ticketed events pretty much every week(end), so check our website to see what’s on. You’ll have a warm welcome, and I recommend an Irish cocktail or the best pint of Guinness in West London!’
Irish Cultural Centre
5 Black’s Road W6 9D