On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day this week, Kim Kardashian posted a series of stories on her Instagram (followed by over 210million) of a Leprechaun trap her kids created. She sprinkled gold glitter across the table and set out mini trunks of chocolate gold coins for each of them to wake up to. Singer P!nk filmed a scene in a messy kitchen, blaming Leprechauns for its chaotic state. We know that St. Patrick’s Day is unique in how it’s been adopted by people across the globe, but seeing it on the global stage like this every year can be surreal for the Irish in Ireland who aren’t familiar with these rituals. From mysterious Leprechaun mischief making to Irish dance and green-lit buildings, the enduring grá (love) for the Island of Ireland comes to life in many ways. We’ve seen displays of Irishness thrive online on TikTok and Instagram in recent days, reinforcing how younger generations are keeping the culture (old and new) alive in their own ways. For the week that’s in it, this 52INSIGHTS explores how Irishness - from both traditional and modern perspectives - is being celebrated by youth around the world today and adopted into popular culture around the world.
TikTok is helping to keep traditional Irish culture alive. Just like the Sea Shanty has found new life on TikTok - traditional Irish dancing has too (as an aside, so has pro-IRA sentiment with ‘Come Out Ye Black & Tans’). By juxtaposing traditional poses and footwork with contemporary music, young Irish dancers are finding viral fame. The app is perfect for the combination of music, rhythm and movement and is inspiring and educating a wider audience about this part of Irish culture. Cairde is a 7-man Irish dancing group - all between 19 and 21 years old who aim to modernise and bring Irish dancing to a whole new level via the combination of TikTok and popular music. They have over 2 million followers (one of their videos has over 87 Million views). This week they performed live from the Cliffs of Moher to ‘Bad Guy’ by Billie Eilish to people across the US via Good Morning America and screens on Times Square.
But it’s not just the Irish showing off traditional fancy footwork to the world - 20 year old American-born Irish dancer Morgan Bullock found viral fame in the early days of Covid-19 lockdown when she started uploading her hip-hop Irish dancing to TikTok.
“I think because Irish dance is a dance form that was born out of oppression, it’s such an amazing thing that it is something that people can enjoy all over the world without, you know, shame from the Irish dance community.” Morgan Bullock, American Irish dancer & TikToker
Morgan will dance with Riverdance the next time it tours the US.
“...Irish is as much a story as a language, and most stories never really die... Every speaker is a narrator of this epic tale, and every word carries within it a piece of the plot.” Manchán Magan, Writer, Thirty-Two Words for Field
Perhaps more famous than the Irish dance is our love of language. The modernisation of saintly and scholarly wisdom hasn’t only translated to the likes of Stripe becoming a multibillion Euro company - we see the Irish love of language and expression kept alive in culture from #Gaeilge on TikTok (over 58 million views) to modern spoken word and poetry at mainstream festivals. Seanchaithe was the name for traditional storytellers, poets and historians of Ireland who travelled entertaining audiences across the country. They are back, not just at festivals - but on chat shows or addressing significant social or political events.
“A new generation of poets, spoken word performers and rappers has emerged with tales for and about modern Ireland, creating a new oral tradition… “It’s the younger generation trying to find a way to tell their stories in a way that makes sense to them and their audience.”” The Guardian
Young Irish poets like Emmet Kirwan, Natalya O’Flaherty, Stephen James Smyth, Felispeaks and Sasha Terfous are strengthening the vibrant spoken word culture in Ireland today with their takes on traditional forms of poetry. Elsewhere, we see modern Irish storytelling come to life through rap and hip-hop - an NY Times piece from 2018 celebrates “hip-hop with an Irish lilt”. The likes of Mango and Mathman, Rejjie Snow, Jafaris, Denise Chaila, Tolu Makay and For Those I Love are all adding new narratives to the Irish story from the working class to immigrant perspectives.
As more diverse perspectives and experiences of Irishness are explored through music and poetry (Denise Chaila’s Duel Citizenship is well worth a watch), it also grows on TikTok. Black Irish TikTok (check out #BlackIrish) is a vibrant space right now with the likes of Vanessa Ifediora and Boni /@bonbonod14, host of the Black & Irish podcast, getting vocal about their identity and Ireland today - struggles and successes.
Felispeaks, a Nigerian-Irish poet, performer, playwright from Co. Longford, is currently featured on the Leaving Certificate English Curriculum with her poem ‘For Our Mothers' for examination year 2023 (you can watch her poetry on YouTube). Interviewed on the Tommy Tiernan show last week alongside Tolu Makay, they noted how rich Black Irish culture is becoming on the likes of TikTok - “I think part of the complexity is the fact that it is such a young, budding space.”
WIT & LOCAL LEGENDS
Sayings of Irish wit and wisdom have been passed on down through generations. The most popular Irish TikToker is Victoria Adeyinka- and she’s all about comedy. With over half a million likes on her content, it’s popular with teens in Ireland and abroad. Tadhg Fleming and his family are another example of how the wit of the Irish has attracted audiences near and far. Killian Sundermann, Michael Fry and Shane Daniel Byrne are all rising young comedy stars whose online content has shone during the Covid-19 pandemic.
On a small island, local legends remain important characters in communities and this has translated online. “On a journey to get fit and sing a few songs along the way,” Padraig Howley is the latest example of traditional Irish culture and character going viral with approving Irish audiences. His Instagram account gainted tens of thousands of followers in a day when he launched it, sharing a wholesome mix of old Irish songs, lilting and new vegan recipes.
It may not be surprising for a country that went through a great Famine, but the Irish love to celebrate their foodie quirks. From Spice bags and potatoes to Tayto sambos and curries, the hashtag Irish Food on TikTok is a popular one, especially with the Irish abroad. One popular format is tastings - people from outside of the country trying Irish snacks and food that Irish people love. There’s plenty to discuss when it comes to this subject - Blindboy even recently released a podcast recently all about the iconic Irish Chicken Fillet Roll.
“Ultimately it's our sense of identity. The breakfast roll is a totem of self-loathing. It's a stereotype of Irishness. It's a messy blood soaked pig and the bread is the gutter. A fillet roll is austere,it has lettuce,it wants to work in Facebook and knows it can't get a mortgage” Blindboy
The vibrant exploration of Irishness at home and abroad through the likes of TikTok is encouraging young people to explore their sense of identity in new, creative ways. The juxtaposition of old traditions with modern forms of art and culture is a great way to inspire virality online, exploring new aspects of the Irish identity today with fun and attitude. This is not just of interest to a local audience in Ireland, but to young creators, dancers and comedians around the world. These trends are rich territory for Irish brands to explore, especially if activating on channels like TikTok, but also in the day to day, being playful with Irish language, wit and charm.
It’s important to recognise that younger generations have a different view of modern Ireland - it is more diverse than ever before. It’s crucial this is consistently reflected in marketing communications.