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Raising funds for charity a nice way to make birthdays count

'CHARITY Birthdays', or CBs, are the latest trend for those in their late 20s and early 30s and are to become the rage in Ireland this year.

In sharp contrast to the image of the self-centred youth which dominated the Noughties, increasing numbers of young professionals are now seeking to use their birthdays to raise money for worthy causes at a time of such economic hardship.

First Fortnight, in its second year, is the brainchild of Dubliner John Paul Swaine, a social worker, who is using his birthday to host a music and arts festival to help those battling depression or mental-health issues.

"Last year was such a success, and I couldn't go back and have a normal birthday this year," he said. "We have expanded on what we did and are using a music night to help raise awareness about the issue and also raise money for charities helping those who are suffering."

The first two weeks in January is the most difficult time for those afflicted with mental-health issues, and Swaine said a live music show as well as a day-time symposium was a way to "gently" open the topic for discussion.

"From my work, I know that this time of year is such a difficult time for people after the hiatus of Christmas.

"In this country, we sweep everything under the carpet from December 15 and we say we'll deal with it in the new year. From the high of Christmas comes a terrible low, so we want to address that with the event."

He added: "Having also lost a brother to suicide when I was 16, I was keen to do something with my birthday to try and do something to tackle it."

Swaine and his event organiser friend Dave Keegan have spent months putting together the show, which will take place next Saturday at the Button Factory in Temple Bar, Dublin. The afternoon symposium will include addresses from former Meath star Liam Hayes, Amnesty International's Colm O'Gorman and writer Colm Tobin.

Music on the night will be provided by And so I Watch You From Afar, Codes, Dark Room Notes and Le Galaxie.

Michael Pope of Le Galaxie, said: "We are delighted to be involved in this event -- it's a great chance to show you can have fun and enjoy music while showing support for such an important campaign. Mental health is an issue that touches all of us and we should work together to end the prejudice and discrimination that surrounds it."

Tickets for the gig, costing €10, are available at www.firstfortnight.com

Sunday Independent