Birmingham parade hailed as the best yet as 90,000 revellers bask in glorious sunshine

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By Gabriel Filan

Birmingham’s annual St Patrick’s Parade has been hailed as “the best yet” with a record number of revellers turning out on the hottest day of the year so far to make it an event to truly remember.

The hard-working organising team behind the event revealed more than 90,000 people took to the streets in celebration of Irish heritage and culture – the biggest turnout yet – reinforcing the reputation of Birmingham’s parade as the third largest in the world.

Previous parades might have been blighted by freezing temperatures or driving rain but Sunday March 16 saw the city’s temperatures peak on the hottest day of the year and the celebrations reach new heights.

The streets were awash with green and a carnival atmosphere that was more in keeping with Rio than the Inner Ring Road prevailed.

Digbeth publicans also did a roaring trade throughout the day as thirst customers enjoyed the party atmosphere.

This year’s parade had an Irish Myths and Legends theme, which brought much colour to a parade featuring not just the Irish community but also a host of other ethnic groups and many different organisations.

This year’s celebrations saw the legendary Irish dragon, Ollipeist, guide the way for many walking groups, marching bands and floats. The leading province was Connaught and the Irish Pipes and Drums band, accompanied by other marching bands, Irish dancers, wonderfully decorated floats, vintage scooters, classic cars, school groups and steam engines following in procession.

The St Patrick’s Parade VIP bus carried many distinguished guests, including Birmingham’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Mike Leddy, the Lady Mayoress, Pauline Leddy, and Birmingham’s own St Patrick, Len Cale, along with nominated members from the local Irish community.

The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress had the tough task of choosing the award winners on the day, including best float, best band, best banner, and best walking group.

The best float, for the second year running, was Archbishop Ilsley Catholic School, best band was Ireland’s Prison Service Band, best banner was St Vincent’s School in Nechells and  the best walking group was Southside BID.

The day saw a vibrant and colourful display of celebrations for all the family, with Green Street holding activities such as a mobile zoo, as well as entertainment from a magician and a clown. There were also craft activities, face painting, and stories about Irish myths and legends that kept youngsters entertained throughout the day. There was also large outdoor market area and a funfair on Bradford Street.

Selfridges and the Library of Birmingham joined in too, with the city’s two most distinctive buildings lit up green over the weekend in honour of the celebrations.

Organiser Anne Tighe said: “This year was a first for many things for the parade and organising committee, a new pattern to our launch event, which was a great evening, and it was also the first time we handled our programme brochure in-house.

“Each year a lot of hard work goes into growing the parade and festival programme and events, and I hope everyone who joined us enjoyed the celebrations. We would like to thank our local community for the support they offered us on the day, with many volunteers helping out in supervising and stewarding roles.

“Also we would like to thank all our sponsors and partners Birmingham City Council, the Irish Embassy, Tourism Ireland, South and City College Birmingham, Guinness, Irwin Mitchell and Macdonald Hotel Group for their invaluable support, and also to our media partners, BBC WM and the Irish Post who helped us capture the day’s activities.”

This year also saw the parade filmed from the sky, when One Day In My Life film crew joined the parade with their trusty drone, to capture the day’s events in full. The video can be seen at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsSTyPT4vWs&feature=youtu.be&a.

As the confetti dust began to settle in the city, the St Patrick Parade and Festival organisers have already started gearing up for next years’ celebrations. To view images from this year’s event all and latest announcements visit www.stpatricksbirmingham.com