About a week ago, I had the pleasure of attending a Bilingual Spoken Word Event at the Irish Writers Centre. The event was part of the Five Lamps Arts Festival, which I work for as an intern. I signed up to volunteer at this event not expecting it to be as impactful as it was. I was unaware of the extent to which it would stun me. So, I hopped on the bus to Parnell Square West and entered the doors of the Irish Writers Center, an unassuming building located next to the well-established Hugh Lane Gallery. I was sent upstairs to where the event would be held. Upstairs, the young performers were casually hanging out and chatting before the night began. The scene was pretty typical until I realized that these young adults were speaking in an English-Irish hybrid. It caught me off guard. I found myself just staring at these cool, artsy twenty-year-olds. At 7:30pm, people began to fill the room. To my surprise, a large group of sixty to seventy-year-olds took their seats near the front. The range of ages in the audience was incredible; from young artsy kids, to preppy looking middle-aged parents, to older folks. As soon as the performance began, I realized the common thread that connected these groups—love for the Irish language.
The MC of the night walked up to the microphone and began casually speaking in fluent Irish. The audience was completely receptive. I would say that at least 87% of the audience spoke Irish. They laughed at her jokes and nodded in contentment. This continued as the artists performed their pieces. Most of them were spoken in Irish, while only a few were spoken in English. I sat in the audience, completely stunned by this experience. Although I couldn’t understand 90% of what was being said, the night still felt very familiar. I have gone to my fair share of spoken word nights in Portland so I wasn’t expecting this one to be any different. It was extremely different, but also similar. The energy felt very familiar. The only difference was that I was experiencing an old language being used in a very modern setting. While I was sitting in the crowd, I realized that the audience was a manifestation of this concept, the integration of young and old. I feel very grateful to have been able to experience such different groups of people being united by the ancient language, even if that meant being completely oblivious for a few hours.