North London-based Irish band Séanachie Óg (pronounced Shawnakee Ogg) are warming up for St Patrick’s Day in the true Irish spirit - with a series of fundraising gigs for worthy local causes.
The first is for Harrow Mencap at Harrow Arts Centre on February 11. The gig came about when Doreen Luff, the charity’s Head of Business Development, went to one of the band’s gigs and was “just blown away by their energy and unique sound”.
The band evolved from regular Sunday night jam sessions at the Alexandra Pub in High Barnet in 2003 and are now semi-professional. Their unique blend of experience, youth, energy, creativity and professionalism set them apart from the usual Irish pub fare.
The name Séanachie Óg means ‘little storyteller’ and reflects the tradition of telling stories that is integral to Irish music. “No-one really knows where the tunes have originated from, which I think is really nice,” says Michael. “Some are more than 100 years old and have been passed down in the oral tradition in Ireland. They tell the stories of immigration, the land, the hard times - but some of them are really upbeat.
“We try to put a modern feeling to the tunes, orchestrate them to make them more dramatic.”
Michael plays the bodhran, a traditional Irish drum made from goatskin stretched across bent wood, and guitar, but each member of the band plays two or three instruments, frequently swapping in between songs.
“This gig is all about supporting Harrow Mencap,” Michael says, “helping the young people realise their potential, their aspirations. We’re hoping that, as a band, we can make a difference.”
Harrow Mencap was established by a group of parents in the 1940s, since when it has grown to be one of the largest voluntary organisations in the borough, providing a wide range of services for children, young people and adults with learning disabilities.
A strong part of its role is to campaign strongly for the rights of people with learning disabilities, who are still among the most isolated and excluded in society today.
All the money raised from the Séanachie Óg gig will go towards the charity’s latest project, a new autism centre in Pinner Green for 18 to 30-year-olds.
“When the band offered to do the fundraiser for us we were thrilled,” says Doreen, “not just because it will help us raise money to help disadvantaged young people but because it will raise our profile - and because it will be a great evening!
“I would simply like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to them for their generosity.”
Harrow Mencap is always seeking new volunteers to help with fund-raising activities. If you would like to get involved, or make a donation, please call 020 8869 8484 or visit www.harrowmencap.org.uk Séanachie Óg will be rocking Harrow Arts Centre, Uxbridge Road, Hatch End at 7.30pm. Details: 020 8416 8989, www.harrowarts.com