Irish music festival underway ahead of St Patrick's Day

Jiri Suchy

This coming Sunday, March 17th, is the Irish national holiday, St Patrick's Day. For the last number of years St Patrick's Day in Prague has been accompanied by festivals of Irish music and this year Irish music is being played every evening on Prague's Namesti Miru square. Like last year, the patron of the festival is the famous Czech actor Jiri Suchy. Before speaking to Mr Suchy, Ian Willoughby asked the organiser of the festival, Frank Haughton, what people can expect from this year's Irish music festival.

"Well, even more music than ever before. We have 104 hours of music. The key thing is not - although we have a very pure ceili band and a very excellent ceili's all about fun and spontanieity...good food, good fun, camaraderie, just hopefully the way we do it in Ireland."

What do you think it is about Ireland that Czech people like?

"I hope it's the relaxed nature of how we do things, that we don't try to impose ourselves...we impose ourselves in a different way, in a more subtle way. The way we present ourselves is in a more relaxed and casual way to maybe other countries. It's a contrast perhaps to the surroundings - our nature is totally different to Germans, to Austrians, to all the rest. I think hopefully they like how we are."

There are signs here for St Patrick's Eve on Saturday. St Patrick's Day is on Sunday - what is St Patrick's Eve?

"That's just another Guinness marketing ploy! They're probably worried that people we can't get them in the pubs on the Sunday so they try and get them in on Saturday night."

The actor Jiri Suchy is the patron of the festival - why have you chosen him?

"I think because his character aligns very close to ours. He's a very personable, friendly man who likes to communicate, likes to get involved in conversation. A lot of people know Ireland without having been there, like Jiri. He wants to go there. I think maybe what we'll have to do is send him to Ireland between this and next St Patrick' Day and let him come back and recount the experience. He's a lovely person, very well known by Czechs, loved by Czechs and provides the friendly face of the festival."

What about Jiri Suchy himself - why does he believe he was offered the position of patron of the Irish music festival?

"I don't know why they chose me but I was very glad to accept it. From that time my relationship with Ireland has become ever closer. They say we both have celtic ancestors - that's a similarity. We have similar fates as small nations - like Oscar Wilde and George Bernhard Shaw being regarded as English writers, many of our artists and personalities are regarded as something other than Czech. I offer the example our most popular polka Skoda Lasky - Americans think it's an American song and they won't be persuaded otherwise."

And if you are interested in going to the Irish music festival between now and Sunday you can go to the marquee on Namesti Miru or any of the Irish bars in the city centre.