On 9th November 2016, Irish Folk legends The Wolfe Tones played a gig at St Kentigern’s Irish Social Club in Southern Manchester as they have been doing for the previous 12 years. However, this year’s performance was even more significant, as it was a part of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, in which Irish rebels seized the GPO and began to gain independence from Britain. This tour has gone all over the country, from Glasgow to Manchester, both cities with strong Irish communities, and even going out as far as Hamburg, where the band are popular, due to the friendship between FC St Pauli of Hamburg and The Wolfe Tones’ own club, Celtic FC.
There is no doubt some controversy over the sort of songs that The Wolfe Tones sing, as they are rebel songs that are linked with The Troubles in Northern Irish and are from a republican point of view, with songs such as “Go on home British Soldiers” and “Bloody Sunday” clearly being in favour of the IRA. However, Kevin Fitzpatrick, the proprietor of St Kentigern’s describes them in a more positive light and believes that their music “goes a long way in telling the story of Ireland, especially the Troubles”.
There is no doubt that previously, an Irish republican band wouldn’t have performed in Manchester without serious backlash, especially after the Arndale Centre was bombed in 1996 by the IRA. However, since the Good Friday Agreement, this sort of gig is less of a political statement these days and appears more of a social occasion. Certainly on the night, everyone was enjoying a drink and everybody there was very hospitable and friendly, not the hostile atmosphere you might expect at a gig that would’ve been making a political statement.
Fitzpatrick also believes that this sort of music is important in peace time between the UK and Ireland, as the reporting of the events comes from less of an angle these days and looks at The Troubles from both sides, especially after the Savile Inquiry, which shows how British Soldiers killed 14 unarmed protesters in Derry. “Investigations like Bloody Sunday are now closer to the truth so people understand the songs more as they do tell the story of our lives way back then – but people are so happy with the truth now and the peace – long may it continue,” being Fitzpatrick’s view.
Personally, despite the songs having connotations certain people might find offensive or unsavoury, I found the performance to be very good, especially when the age of the band members is taken into account, and the people at the gig to be very friendly and welcoming. In addition to this, I do not believe this is made for a political statement to extent it used to and is now just a chance for people to have an enjoyable social occasion.
This map shows whereabouts the Wolfe Tones have been on this tour: