Saints And Scholars To Open St Patrick Festival

The fantastic Saints and Scholars concert is returning to the Down Cathedral this year again on Sunday evening 10th March at 8pm with more talented singers and musicians.

This fabulous event will bring local and international singers together for a feast of music for the evening… and it’s FREE. But you will need to get a ticket for the event which you can get from the Tourism Office at the St Patrick Centre, St Patrick’s Church parochial house, or at the Down Cathedral.

The concert is the opening event for St Patrick’s Festival week in Downpatrick, the home of St Patrick. And the event is supported by Newry Mourne and Down District Council and Tourism NI.

Ronan Gilchrist, the main organiser and driver of All Lives are Precious (ALPS) said: “I’m delighted once again to be running this event. It will be a great boost to help raise awareness about mental health issues and for suicide prevention in our area.

Ronan Gilchrist and his team at ALPS are all set for the concert in the Down Cathedral on Sunday 10 March which opens up the St Patrick’s Festival. It is supported by Newry Mourne and Down District Council and Tourism NI and admission is free but you need to order a ticket.

“Singing this year we will have well known local stars such as Matthew Campbell from Downpatrick singing along with international names such as Liam Lawton from Carlow. Liam is a priest who performs across the country and covers Irish, contemporary, religious music and ballads. Singers Malachy Cush and Karl McGuickan will also be performing and raising the roof. We hope too to have the St Patrick’s Choral Society in attendance.

“The reason I am running the concert is to maintain the momentum of the mental health and suicide prevention programme I am running. It has been quite a journey so far. But we are seeing some successes now. For example we have ten volunteers trained and actively working in the area on mental health issues.

“”I set up ALPS in 2014 and it has received constant and solid public support and I am very grateful for that. Initially it was just a programme addressing Catholic organisations and channels but it has now broadened out to address the needs of the wider community and everyone is welcome. No-one is excluded from accessing our services. And in 2017 we actually became full-time workers and reach out across Northern Ireland. We now have succeeded in attracting funding to support us in our health aims which I am delighted with we can rely less on public donations as such.

“We also work with the Department of Education in delivering mental health and suicide awareness programmes across Northern Ireland promoting children’s mental wellbeing.”

Ronan explained he is professionally trained as a nurse, but became interested in the area of working in mental health. He said: “I went on to do a degree in youth work, and qualified in counselling and I am a qualified suicide prevention trainer and I have worked across Northern Ireland, Ireland and England.

“In the past 18 months, ALPS has worked with 12,000 people across Northern Ireland through our volunteer workers, and in  Downpatrick we have trained over 200 people in suicide awareness and prevention.

“We work closely in partnership with sports’ clubs such as Downpatrick FC, the Downpatrick Youth Football League, and we sponsor the U-12’s at the RGU.

“In the past few years we have moved forward and have formed a limited company by guarantee and our aims are fundamentally charitable. We have received funding to move our organisation forward and I can assure everyone that all our funds raised locally are spent locally.

“I am looking forward to the concert on Sunday 10 March in the Down Cathedral. It will be a celebration of our achievements so far and an evening for us all to enjoy and come together as a community and feel stronger in our campaign to improve mental health and raise suicide prevention in our area.”