AMONG the dearest childhood memories of Irish Shanghai resident Derek Mowlds is looking out from his grandparents’ balcony in Dublin city center to watch the grand St Patrick’s Day parades pass by as revellers celebrated all things Irish on their patron saint’s day.
Now Mowlds, an associate director with an Irish project and construction management company, is trying to recreate that same festive atmosphere in Shanghai.
As president of Irish community organization Le Cheile, Mowlds, who has lived in the city for two years, is organizing the Irish Family Day Celebration on Saturday with the Consulate General of Ireland, Shanghai.
The colorful celebration of Irish culture is set to bring the Irish community in Shanghai together ahead of the St Patrick’s Day itself on March 17.
Mowlds’ three and half year old daughter will be among the kids singing and dancing at the event.
“Back in Ireland, where we have 4.5 million people, everybody celebrates, but the fact that we’re just a tiny presence here in China makes it all the more important for the Irish community in Shanghai to come together on the occasion of the St Patrick’s Day to remember their cultural heritage,” Mowlds said.
This ethos is conveyed in the very name of the Shanghai group as “le cheile” is Irish for “together.”
There are 500 to 600 Irish in Shanghai and most are here relatively short-term.
While Irish music, dance and food will bring the craic to Shanghai International Fashion Center in Yangpu District on Saturday, the event also celebrates multi-cultural elements, with Chinese dragon dancers, a Chinese school choir and Japanese drummers.
“The family day is a great way for people to get together and to share information about different cultures,” Mowlds said.
Austin Gormley, Consul General of the Consulate General of Ireland, Shanghai, said a multi-cultural celebration is important. “We reach out to global local communities and to promote communication and understanding between Irish people around the world and the local communities that host them,” he added.
The family day is just one of a series of St Patrick’s Day events — including a Gaelic football tournament featuring a Chinese team — that started on March 7.
Many of the events have been organized with Chinese partners including Yangpu District government, QSW Cultural Center, Shanghai Concert Hall and the Shanghai Grand Theatre to engage with locals who are increasingly aware of and interested in Irish culture.
“We estimate that 15,000 to 20,000 people visit Ireland from China each year, but we would like to grow that number to 50,000 in the next five years,” said Gormley.
And after it’s all over?
“We’ll go out to wet the shamrock — go for a drink — with friends,” he said.