Long before Samuel Beckett came on the scene (sorry), the Irish have felt a connection to France due to the monks travelling around Europe from the late 6th century pedalling a continental monasticism. The 15th century also saw an intake of Catholics in France, fleeing from Protestant persecution under Cromwell. The first Irish college was first built in 1578, and was heavily restored in 2002. Whilst it was originally predominantly monastically educational, the Centre is now, as the website explains, “more of an institution”, but does still focus on spirituality and culture. Montesquieu’s observation that Irish students brought a “formidable talent” with them from their homeland implies their part played in the development of Paris as an intellectual and cultural celebrity.
Today, the Irish Cultural Centre plays the host both to Irish artists in residence, and events such as the Paris Goal Ball. The Irish Chamber choir was created in 2004, promoting a “cultural exchange between Ireland and France.”
This shift from an institutional to a more liberal educational focus follows globalisation and finds a relevancy not only amongst the Irish and expatriate communities in Paris, but within a more pandemic French society- where world culture is slowly being absorbed with more ease and less nationalistic fear.
Having already wandered round the grounds of the centre, located at 5, rue des Irlandais 75005, I was excited to see that “Silent” by Pat Kinevane is being performed on the 23-24 May. Previously performed at the Riverbank Arts Centre in London in March, where it received good press, notably for the quality of the one-man performance. Free for students and the unemployed, and only 5 euros for anyone else, the blurb describes it as both “audacieuse et sombre.” Whilst the write-up implies a confrontational piece of theatre, I shall be interested to see whether, where the audience “rit de désespoir”, this play descends into an unfinished silence worthy of Beckett’s Happy Days. In any case, I find the emphasis on physicality, and subject matter of homelessness to be especially appropriate to Paris.
For more information about events at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, go to the website.