Wear green: Ireland conference has it all

The Irish Empire is coming to Charlottesville. Or at least that’s the way Andrew Wyndham, Project Director of the upcoming Re-Imagining Ireland conference and festival, looks at it-– jokingly, of course.
Yet this four-day “town meeting of Ireland,” which will bring more than 100 influential journalists, politicians, artists, writers, musicians, historians, and citizen activists from across the sea to Charlottesville from May 7-10, is quite the impressive event-– and one that you really shouldn’t skip.
Through its engaging, carefully crafted collection of panel discussions, performances, short and feature films, and exhibitions, this groundbreaking forum will offer us a rare opportunity to look closer at our times and ourselves through the dynamic prism of Ireland.
Why Ireland? Strongly rooted in its rich heritage, Ireland also happens to be the most globalized country in the world today. Recent investments have made Kildare into the new Silicon Valley. Apartment prices in Dublin have skyrocketed, making it practically the next Manhattan.
The European Union has poured significant funds into the development of Ireland’s infrastructure, thus dramatically reshaping its landscape. Immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe are radically altering the island’s racial composition, not to mention its social and religious identity. All of these changes warrant a “time out,” a reflective pause in which to re-assess, or better, re-imagine Ireland - and through it, the world. 
Why Ireland in Charlottesville? We have the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to thank, and specifically Andrew Wyndham, who, in addition to being part Irish, organized an Irish film festival (“Irish Film: A Mirror Up to Culture”) through the VFH back in 1996. Re-imagining Ireland grew out of this festival and his collaboration with an extraordinary team of consultants.
Wyndham and his team agreed that a conference of this nature, where issues like “Peace in Northern Ireland and Beyond” and “Poverty amidst Prosperity” will be explored and debated, would benefit from a distant and neutral meeting place. Enter Charlottesville.
The participating guests, who might never meet under any other circumstances, are too numerous to mention, and each warrants a complete biography. They range from Ireland’s President, Mary McAleese, to Angela’s Ashes author Frank McCourt ,to Peter McVerry, a Dublin-based Jesuit who works with young homeless people, and Eamon McCann, journalist and founder of the NI Civil Rights Movement.
Poetry readings, concerts by Solas, Cherish the Ladies, De Dannan, and The Green Fields of America, award-winning shorts, and a feature film premiere presented by the Cork Int’l Film Festival, and two performances of Michael West’s new play, Foley—these are just a few of the festival’s not-to-be-missed highlights.
From May 7-10, Re-Imagining Ireland fills Charlottesville with a compelling selection of discussions, dramatic and musical performances, films, and exhibitions exploring and illustrating how global forces shape the local – and vice versa. For a complete schedule and more information on specific events, tickets and registration, visit the website at re-imagining-ireland.org.