Stars in bid to rescue London's Irish centre
Irish emigrants in London are engaged in a desperate battle to save their famous cultural centre.
Supporters of the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith have launched a fundraising campaign to prevent closure of a facility which has been a focal point for thousands of Irish emigrants for over 15 years.
The ICC launched the campaign after getting the news that Hammersmith and Fulham Council would not be able to renew its lease which is due to expire in March 2012.
Despite receiving thousands of signatures from residents and workers in the area against the sale of the property, the council decided to go ahead.
Although there was an initial understanding to renew the lease until 2017, the council, under financial pressure from a £130m (€148m) debt, decided to sell the premises.
However, after representations, the council offered the ICC first refusal as buyers at a price of £1.5m (€1.7m).
Now, the campaign to save the building for the Irish centre has grown with President Mary McAleese and actors Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne pledging support for the campaign.
Since 1995, the ICC has been providing high quality educational and cultural activities catering for a wide range of interests. Providing full programmes for children and the elderly, the centre has been hailed as a vital part to London's Irish community.
Assistant manager Kelly O'Connor said she still sees the centre as having a vital role in the community. "As a young graduate, I can see how the ICC is changing, broadening its remit to provide for a younger audience.
"I think a lot of people see Irish centres as a venue for the older generation but what they don't realise is that the Hammersmith ICC has a much more varied programme."
The ICC this year has added an Irish Writer's Festival and an Irish Film Festival to its line-up.
Many more events have been planned, including a fundraiser comedy night hosted by Dara O Briain this November.