It is the mission of The Baton Rouge Irish Club to support community activities and organizations and offer leadership in endeavors that promote Irish culture locally in Baton Rouge. Since as early as the 1950’s, parades and other similar events celebrating St. Patrick’s Day have been an integral part of the social landscape of South Louisiana. Today the much anticipated St. Patrick’s Day Parade draws the largest audience for any one-day event in Louisiana.
The Board of Directors for 2016 includes:
- Joe Sullivan – President
- Laura McDavitt – Vice President
- Dan Mulligan – Treasurer
- Deborah Walker – Secretary
- Kristine Kennedy
- Allen Kinney
- Francis McDonald
- Charles Teddlie
- Patricia Comeaux, Business Manager
The Importance of Irish Culture
Over 40 million Americans consider themselves Irish or Irish-American, which is amazing when considering that Ireland’s size and population is comparable to that of Louisiana. And that’s not where the similarities stop. When examining the distinctive styles of music and dance associated with Louisiana and Ireland, Cajun and Celtic, and the close connection between the two languages, the parallels are unmistakable.
Contributions made by Irish authors and playwrights have been acknowledged throughout literary history through the works of Keats, Joyce, O’Neil, Swift and many others. The great contributions made by Irish Celts to religious and secular culture, especially in the U.S., has been a source of pride for descendants of the Irish from many years. Irish history also includes many historic rebellions, revolts, wars and historical personas; from the High King Brian Boru defeating the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf on Good Friday in 1014 to The Easter Monday Rebellion of April 14, 1916 at the General Post Office in Dublin led by Padraig Pearse and Michael Collins.
Today Ireland has evolved into an economic power in Europe known as “The Celtic Giant” due in part to an increasingly well-educated youth population, along with proper land management and monetary policy.
The primary event of the Irish Club each year is the Baton Rouge Irish Film Festival. This event helps to bring Irish culture to the public, where audiences can enjoy a wide variety of newly released Irish films, along with Irish music and dance.
In 2013, the Film Selection Committee of the Baton Rouge Irish Film Festival decided it was time to highlight Irish short films in the festival lineup. In past years we presented short films before or between full-length offerings during the festival, but we now wanted to put them in the spotlight. Thus was born the “Wee Irish Film Night”; an entire night dedicated to Irish shorts during which the audience itself judges it’s favorite short of the ones shown.
We also decided that the honor of audience favorite should have an award attached to it; so the O’Kalem Award for favorite audience short film was designed. Local Louisiana glass and wood artists create a new award each year. The award is constructed with distinctive top and bottom halves. The native wood base represents our Louisiana roots and heritage and the emerald green glass “flame” represents the artistic achievements of the Irish filmmakers. Every year the judged short films change, and so does the glass portion of the award.
The award is named for the O’Kalems (as they were known in Ireland); director Sidney Olcott and screenwriter and actress Gene Gauntier, of the New York based Kalem Film Company. Between 1910 and 1914, the O’Kalems, based in Co. Kerry, made films with strong Irish themes and local Irish locations. Their first film, A Lad from Old Ireland, was the first major film produced in Ireland and one of the first American films shot overseas.
O’Kalem Award winners:
Tomás Seoighe, Director
Antoin Beag ó Colla, Writer
Aidan McAteer, Writer-Director