As the curtain comes down on an eventful 2019, the Felling Irish Association can look back on their year’s work with a genuine sense of pride. In their decennial year of good deed doing, the association have continued on their mission to combat loneliness in the local and surrounding areas through the organisation of a host of day trips and social events. This year’s packed social calendar saw the Felling Irish and its members take busloads of locals on a variety of excursions across the region. Notable days out included a spring trip for senior citizens to South Shields’ award winning seaside chippy, Coleman’s, with the association picking up the bill for those on board. There was also an intergenerational trip to the sun-kissed wonders of Alnwick Gardens during the summer, and a more autumnal, November day out at Beamish Museum: a living, working window into times past in the North East of England.
When quizzed about the aim of such trips, charismatic chairman and founder of the Irish Felling Association, Des Costello, said, “The idea behind these trips is to help get lonely and vulnerable people in the community out of their homes and sharing interesting experiences with each other. Originally, these trips were organised for senior citizens, but this year’s inclusion of a more intergenerational social calendar has really had a positive impact, with different generations mixing, looking after each other and generally having a good time. It’s been great to see.”
In an attempt to be as inclusive as possible, the association also reaches out to those in sheltered accommodation who may not have the ability to attend such events. Over the course of the year, over 20 tea dances have been organised by different shelters, providing lunch, refreshments and musical entertainment, again in an attempt to bring smiles to the faces of some of the more isolated members of society.
While the day trips and tea dances play a large role in the association’s quest to combat loneliness in community, this is by no means their only focus. As their name might suggest, another major aim of the Felling Irish Association is to promote Irish culture and traditions while raising money for good causes. Their annual St Patrick’s Day Celebration kick started this year’s calendar of evening events with entertainment provided by the Kelly Hendry School of Irish Dance, who boast
three world champions within their ranks, and live music from traditional Irish band, The Emerald Thieves (pronounced teaves, of course). This time round, all money raised was used to sponsor a young member of the Association from Cardinal Hulme School, to help fund their school-building trip to Nepal. Other nights throughout the year aimed to raise money for other noble causes and charitable organisations such as Guide Dogs for the Blind, again with the Kelly Hendry School of Dance showcasing their talents at both events.
As the New Year approaches, the Felling Irish Association are keen to press forward with their work and have already announced a provisional social calendar for 2020 that far exceeds this year’s efforts, “Having applied for further funding from the National Lottery, we’ve already provisionally penned in the same day trips as last year with the intention of adding some different destinations as we go along,” said founder, Des, “Some of this year’s events were oversubscribed, so there’s also the possibility of putting more transport on to make sure all that want to attend, can.”
There is also talk of the association setting up a form of bereavement counselling for local residents who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, but as Des notes, this again depends on being granted funding from the local council, “Should we be successful with our bid, were hoping to employ 6 – 8 councillors who will be able to help people through what can be an incredibly difficult period. But we’ll have to wait and see on that one. I do have to say a big thank you to organisations like the National Lottery, as without their support, we would find it very difficult to continue with our work.”
For a full rundown of what has gone before and what is coming up in 2020, please visit the association’s website: http://thefellingirish.co.uk/. Alternatively, you can contact Des Costello directly on (0191) 469 4476.