Niall Stokes, Editor at Hot Press and Curator

Niall Stokes, Editor at Hot Press and Curator

Ireland at Expo: Unveiling the Great Irish Songbook

Expo 2020. A major global showcase. A blank canvas. 

For the Irish team, the first step was to decide what could be be said and how. But this much was clear at the outset: to make it stand out, the Irish presence would have to be unique, powerful and persuasive.

We need to think on our feet. There will always be nations with bigger budgets. With deeper pockets. With more grandiose schemes. And with the ability to attract attention on the basis of sheer scale. So, the question the Irish team faced was inherently challenging: what can we do that will stand tall even alongside larger buildings, louder light shows, busier special effects – amid the whole Expo mezze?

As the discussions and the brainstorming got off the ground, one thing was clear: we should play to our strengths. And that meant focussing on the essential core of creativity which has become a hallmark of Ireland’s approach to the arts, to culture, to life and – ultimately, we hope – to asserting our place in the world.   

It was agreed that the objective at Expo 2020 – taking place in 2021 and 2022 as a result of the pandemic – would be to make a major statement about Irish creativity, imagination, ingenuity and innovation. About what started to take shape in our minds as this 'island of Inspiration’. About the place we call Ireland – and the people who make it what it is. 

This essentially constructive vision of what Ireland represents, and its growing standing in the world, encompasses the contributions we have made collectively – in the arts, science, tech, film, animation, music, literature, business, food, sustainability, and indeed, the vital and increasingly central discipline of problem-solving. 

It has, you might say, taken us a long time to get to where we are. It has involved a gradual, but enormously significant shift in priorities. It has also required, on the part of successive governments from the 1960s onwards, planning and investment in the future. There is, of course, still much more to be done. We are all aware, or should be, that there is no greater folly than complacency and that if you are standing still, in effect, you are falling behind. But what we can say, with confidence, is that Ireland has developed the workforce, the resources, and the skills required to make the most of our already rich and highly developed cultural and creative strengths – and to deliver world-beating results.

That would be a message worth conveying to the watching world at Expo.

In The Days Before Rock ’n’ Roll… 

Years of the Pioneers

1960s and 1970s 

All The World’s Our Stage 

They Came From All Corners

Into A New Millennium 
From 2000

It’s The Irish In Me
Songs of the Irish Diaspora