Held between the 15th – 19th March this year, the St. Patrick’s Festival celebrates our national holiday with a global impact. Each year a cast of thousands of home-grown and international musicians, dancers, storytellers and performers take part in the Festival’s rich and vibrant artistic programme of events.
This year's theme for the festival is 'Home' and for the very first time, St. Patrick’s Festival has appointed an International Guest of Honour.
Mark Hamill, known best for his Star Wars role of Luke Skywalker, will be welcomed back to our shores as the inaugural International Guest of Honour.
The new honourary role of International Guest of Honour has been created to celebrate the achievements of an individual from the worlds of business, the arts, or the media, who has a special connection or significant affinity with Ireland. The role will be an opportunity to recognise and celebrate their relationship with and contribution to our country. While here Mark will be a special guest in the Presidential stand to view the National Festival Parade on March 17th.
Susan Kirby, St. Patrick’s Festival CEO said: “The role of International Guest of Honour is something we have been considering for a few years. There are so many examples of Irish people and the diaspora achieving eminence across many different art forms and disciplines worldwide.
"Many of these have a special connection with Ireland and we want to celebrate and recognise this. Mark has a special affinity to Ireland through his filming of Star Wars and family history and has done much for our film industry. We’re looking forward to welcoming him back ‘home’ to celebrate our national holiday and St. Patrick’s Festival with us.”
Audiences were introduced to the savage beauty of Skellig Michael, the legendary island off the coast of Kerry, in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS when Rey tracked down the long-lost Luke Skywalker, portrayed by Mark Hamill.
Mark's great-grandmother was born in Kilkenny and left for America when she was a teenager, a story that is not unfamiliar with many Irish exiles.
Further research shows that his great (x3) grandparents John Keating married Margaret Foley of Gurteen married in Carlow Cathedral in 1822. It is also said that he may have connections in Donegal.
And to be fair, the way he described Donegal last time he was in this part of the world just tells you that he has a bit of a soft spot for it.
To explain how big this festival has gotten since it began in 1996, preparation used to take five months, but with its subsequent growth, it now takes 18 months to plan for Ireland’s biggest annual celebration.
The festival - which is now in its 22nd year - hopes to capture the capital in a flourish of colour and flair where they celebrate all things good about coming 'home' to Ireland.
You can find more information about the full programme of events for St. Patrick's Festival here.