On Wednesday evening around 50 people huddled around the flagpole at Grand Parade in Halifax to kick off the 2020 Halifax Celtic Festival, now celebrating its seventh year.
As melodies from the bagpipes droned through the cold air, attendees were quickly welcomed into Halifax City Hall by Mayor Mike Savage and councillors for a reception and a ceremony to award the World Peace Tartan.
The World Peace Tartan is an award given annually to a member of the community who goes above and beyond to promote and strengthen Celtic heritage. Past recipients of the award include Mayor Savage and former Nova Scotia Lt.-Gov. Mayann Francis, who was also in attendance.
This year’s recipient of the World Peace Tartan is Bridget Brownlow, a conflict resolution advisor and associate professor at Saint Mary’s University (SMU).
Brownlow, who is also vice president of the Charitable Irish Society of Halifax, was recognized for a program that she founded at SMU.
The program teaches students methods of conflict resolution and brings them to Belfast where they work with children in Catholic and state-controlled schools.
“This program has allowed us to work with people who were directly involved in conflicts,” Brownlow explained in an interview.
“Ninety-seven per cent of schools in the North of Ireland are segregated by religion, and the city of Belfast is also divided by more than 100 massive walls. Ironically, they are called peace walls but were put there in 1968 to separate the communities,” she said.
“Students do a fantastic job, they give me a great deal of hope. They want to do something meaningful not just at home but also abroad. This award really belongs to the students and the people of the North of Ireland.”
During the reception, speeches were delivered in different Celtic languages by guests from across Nova Scotia.
Guests were welcomed to an authentic Celtic party with music performed by local musicians, while a table full of traditional food was provided by local groups which promote Celtic culture.
One of the guests, Glenn Amirauld, is the representative for Brittany, one of the seven Celtic nations.
After giving his speech in the Breton language, Amirauld spoke with The Signal and said Celtic music is “in his blood,” adding that most people would be “surprised” and “interested” to know how far the Celtic culture and language spread throughout the world.
“I represent the Breton family from France Brittany, and I have for several years now. I was asked by the head of this organization and I have ever since. The Bretons had their own form of Celtic language and culture,” said Amirauld.
“A lot of Nova Scotians can actually trace their lineage back to Brittany. In fact, the Celtic nation Brittany, has the largest Celtic Festival in the world which takes place each year.”
Halifax’s mayor, who was born in Ireland and spent many years in Wales, delivered the proclamation and officially declared Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 as Halifax Celtic Festival weekend.
The Signal spoke with him at the event about what celebrating Celtic heritage means to him.
“I have Welsh heritage and Irish heritage. I think it is important here in the land of the Mi’kmaq people, which is also important to me, that we recognize the people who helped build the city we have today,” said Savage.
“I commend these organizers on the work that they are doing. Particularly on the continuation of the Celtic language which is really important to the living history of this place.”
The 2020 Celtic Festival will include concerts, dancers, talks on Celtic culture, Celtic vendors and Gaelic lessons.
The festivities kick off Friday and end on Sunday afternoon. All events will take place at the Halifax Forum. A full listing of events is available online.
About the author
Adam McNamara is a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has a passion for telling stories and informing the public on healthcare, education,...