How long have you been in Bahrain? And what made you become involved with the Irish Society?
I will be here four years in April. When I arrived in Bahrain, I joined the ladies Arabian Celts football team. It was a fantastic place to get involved with like-minded people. There I met James Kennedy, who was the then chairperson of the Bahrain Irish Society (BIS). He had been in the role for five years and felt it was time to hand over the reins to someone new. He, along with another committee member, cornered me one evening and asked if I would like to take over. With their support, and that of the incoming committee, I took over running the BIS in September 2015 and have loved every day since.
The society has always prided itself on being ‘inclusive not exclusive’, do you have a lot of non-Irish members?
Yes, this is very much the ethos of the BIS. We are expats in a wonderful country which has taken us in and given us a home. The Irish are known for being open and inclusive and we definitely carry this though in all we do in the BIS. We have members from around the world, the only caveat being that only Irish people have voting rights at the AGM.
People are drawn by the fun and diverse events we hold every year. We have also started to be more proactive in engaging different companies to provide discounts to our members. We are getting some really positive feedback about this.
With St Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s national day, coming up, there are lots of events planned. Can you tell us what’s in store?
Oh yes, yes. This is an action-packed weekend all over the world and it will be no different here in Bahrain. The weekend will be opened with our infamous St Patrick’s Day ball on March 14. This is an exclusive black-tie event that begins at 6.30pm and often continues until 9am the following day! We have two bands playing, one of which we have flown in from Ireland, called The Harleys, and the other is a very talented local Bahraini band called The Oracle Project. We also have a dance act coming from the Ukraine and the evening will be topped off with a DJ. Friday, March 15, will see our band jump over to JJ’s to perform another night of amazing music. Entry will be free for BIS members. The Saturday is a family fun day and music event at the Rugby Club.
The ball is one of our many events that sell out each year. We on the committee believe it is the small details that make a big difference. We really do put so much thought and effort into how we present the ball and the entertainment that we provide. This year our theme is “Irish Sport” where we will break the room up into four and decorate the tables with its given sport. We believe the guests love this different aspect to our ball. We try to make it fun and entertaining at the same time. The menu is personally selected by the committee and we hold up to three food tastings to ensure that all food is suited to the Irish palate!
The feedback year on year has been amazing and it is what keeps us wanting to improve each year. This year we have had requests for tickets from Saudi, the UAE, Oman, Kuwait and even a few people fly back from Ireland to attend.
Aside from the weekend’s activities, what does the Irish Society do throughout the year?
We try to hold events that will be supported by the members. These range from barbecues and quiz nights, to brunches and charity events. We love to give a little back to the island we call home and do this through organising and/or supporting charity events. We support the BSPCA, Friendship of the Blind and Migrant Works Association, we also organise beach clean-ups and dog walks. We hope to expand our charity work in the coming year.