St Patrick’s Day 2002 was eagerly anticipated by many London-Irish; that year the Irish Saint’s Day was to be commemorated with the first ever major publicfunded parade routed through central London. Normally, St Patrick’s Day parades in London were sheltered away from public scrutiny, cloistered away in districts containing considerable Irish populations, like Willesden in northwest London and Lewisham to the south of the metropolis. It was said by some people that in previous decades the ‘Irish community’ were fearful of expressing their Irishness publicly in St Patrick’s Day parades during the height of the IRA’s bombing campaign in England (Hutton 2006). As a sign of emerging Irish confidence, Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester, other English cities host to substantial Irish populations, had in recent years developed huge St Patrick’s Day parades, with Manchester claiming to muster as many as three hundred thousand attendees.1 In Birmingham, the parade organizers stated ‘you don’t have to be Irish to join in – Chinese dragons, bhangra2 drummers and Carnival costumed walkers too. All are welcome to join in this big celebration’. Encouraging inclusivity, the organizers of the London parade stated:

‘Sharing a Common Heritage’

Public spectacles, festivals, carnivals and ‘mega-events’ are a central platform to perform state-sponsored multiculturalism. Certainly, such spectacles were a

fundamental constituent of the GLA’s ‘cultural’ remit under the leadership of Ken Livingstone. The GLA’s sponsorship of public events was detailed in a policy report by its Cultural Strategy Group. The document, entitled London Cultural Capital: Realising the Potential of a World Class City (GLA 2004), views culture as a means to provide diverse communities with ‘social capital’. The document points to how funding the cultural initiatives of London’s socially excluded groups helps them to become ‘sustainable organizations’ and to address ‘difficult social issues’ rooted in ‘inequality’ (2004: 10-17). The report also encourages crosscommunity dialogue by laying stress on how culture ‘can bring together people with different backgrounds, transcending barriers and celebrating difference’. (2004: 18). For this reason, the report states, St Patrick’s Day is funded and promoted alongside other London ‘multicultural celebrations’: Chinese New Year, Mela, Black History Month, Mardi Gras and Liberty (2004: 57).3 The ‘double bind’ is seen to be in operation here. Though the report encourages the building of alliances between groups – ‘culture as a means of coming together, of sharing a common heritage’ (2004: 18) – particularism, the unique cultures of the city’s minority groups, is ultimately guaranteed.