We in Ireland regard our culture as a unique national strength which, in many ways, defines us on the world stage. Despite our geographical position as a relatively small nation on the Western edge of Europe, our cultural impact has given us a significant competitive advantages in helping us to secure jobs, trade, investment and tourism and it is also a very effective way of connecting with the Irish diaspora in all parts of the world.
Cultural diplomacy is an important part of the broader diplomacy work of our Embassy network, allowing us to promote Ireland to a much broader audience than traditional government-to-government contacts. Our Embassy in Bucharest has always been, since its establishment here over ten years ago, an enthusiastic exponent of cultural diplomacy and we strive to strengthen and develop the already strong relationship between Ireland and Romania through participation in a series of cultural events each year.
Although the Embassy organises its own annual programme of events, we also participate in initiatives at the invitation of our Romanian hosts, such as the Embassies Festival which was held for the first time in Bucharest last September. Other regular events in which we play our part are Metro Day and Europe Day which are organised every year in May by the European Commission Office in association with Bucharest City Council. We also participate in the Commission’s European Film Festival and the RuralFest event which takes place in the Kiseleff area every September.
With regards to the Embassy’s own cultural events, we try to be as diverse as possible and to include as many aspects of the arts as we can. The year 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of Ireland’s greatest poets and Nobel Laureate, William Butler Yeats, and we celebrated the occasion with a travelling exhibition on the life and work of the poet. We are most grateful to our friends in Bucharest University Faculty of Letters and in Ovidius University in Constanţa for hosting this exhibition last June/July. We also took the opportunity to display the exhibition in the National Library of Romania in Bucharest as part of our contribution to the Embassies festival.
Another event which took place very recently was the production of an Irish play, in Romanian, at the National Theatre. The play, Eden by Eugene O’Brien, premiered in the Sala Mică on 15 March and it is directed by Cristina Giurgea a graduate student at the National University for Theatre and Cinema (UNATC) in Bucharest, who staged the play as part of her final exam. Cristina was awarded a bursary of €1,000 by the Embassy to enable her to produce an Irish play and, having attended the premiere with Ambassador Feely and some other guests, I can say that it is a brilliant production and a great credit to Cristina, UNATC and the National Theatre. It will run for a week at first and there will be another run in April.
In November 2015 the 7th edition of the Irish Film Days Festival was held in Cinema Elvire Popesco in association with the Irish Film Institute, the Romanian Cultural Institute and the French Institute. The two main Irish features were Gold and Good Vibrations and they played to very appreciative audiences over the two nights of the festival.
As I write, we are approaching our national day, St Patrick’s Day, on 17 March and I am glad to say that we have already launched a week full of events to celebrate the occasion.