Leeds Irish Centre has marked its 50th anniversary in style despite having to make changes to its planned programme of celebrations due to the Covid crisis.
A special service of commemoration took place yesterday Monday 9 June, 2020, at the centre on York Road.
Ten days of celebrations and community events were planned over June to mark the centre’s golden anniversary, but all have had to be postponed due to the coronavirus lockdown.
It is estimated that as many as six million people living in the UK have at least one Irish grandparent (around 10% of the UK population) and according to the 2011 Census, nearly 20,000 people living in Yorkshire and Humberside were born in Ireland.
The area has a high concentration of people from Mayo and the west of Ireland.
Tommy McLoughlin has managed the York Road venue for 45 years and was master of ceremonies on its official opening night in June 1970. For many, he is the face of the Irish community in the West Yorkshire city.
He says the anniversary is an opportunity to show how the Irish have shaped the city and region over the past 200 years and how the centre has nurtured people’s heritage while they forge new lives in an unfamiliar land.
Tommy McLoughlin Manager, Leeds Irish Centre.
The Irish Centre, which has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds over the decades for local charities and organisations, has been the first port of call for countless emigrant Irish people who have sought work and prosperity after leaving their homeland.
Entertainers from Oasis to Val Doonican have been to the venue along with sporting stars, bishops, presidents and ambassadors.
Mr McLoughlin recalled: "Oasis came in 1984 and one of them popped into my office to ask to use the phone. He wanted to ring his mum and said she was only in Manchester. They were lovely lads!"