Thousands of people descended on Leeds city centre today for what is now one of the highlights of the city’s social calendar.
Now in its 18th year, the St Patrick’s Day parade attracts more than 5,000 spectators on the day.
Traditional pipe and brass bands joined participants from schools, sporting clubs and community associations in a celebration of their Irish heritage.
Many in the parade and crowd literally flew the flag for Ireland, while the most enthusiastic among them dressed head-to-toe in green, sported shamrock glasses or donned colourful hats.
Former Leeds United player Noel Whelan was invited to officially open the procession at 11am, with the Mayor of Leeds, Coun Gerry Harper, among those leading the way.
The city’s schools were well represented as pupils from St Paul’s Catholic Primary, Our Lady’s Catholic Primary, St Urban’s Catholic Primary and several more happily waved to the crowds as they passed by.
They were joined by members of Leeds University’s Irish Dancing Society, Leeds Academy of Irish Dancing, Leeds Mayo Association, John F Kennedy’s Gaelic Athletic Association and many others.
Colourful floats, a vintage bus and even the odd tractor also joined the procession.
Even as the parade continued through the city centre, a large crowd had begun to gather in Millennium Square to enjoy the first of the day’s entertainment on stage.
It’s nice to live in a place where there’s such a vibrant Irish community.Kevin Goss, spectator
Kevin Goss, 42, had brought his young family along to enjoy the day’s festivities.
“It’s nice to live in a place where there’s such a vibrant Irish community,” he said. “The children were a little overwhelmed, but they seem to be warming up to the music and they had their flags to fly.”
A programme of dancing and music from Beware of the Pig, The Duets and DJ Tommy Wade kept the party going until 4pm, with food and drinks stalls, children’s rides and games lining the square.
Established in 1999, the parade has become a favourite for many families and a legion of loyal supporters. But this year’s parade had also drawn a fresh crop of spectators from Leeds and further afield.
Agnes Branigan, 73, said: “We live in Manchester and the last three years we’ve been to London. Wherever St Patrick is, we go!
“It’s the first time we’ve been to this one. The parade was very good, very colourful. Now it’s all about the music.”
Caroline Kilbane, 46, from Harehills, said: “We always come out every St Patrick’s Day, but it’s the first time I’ve been to the parade. It would be even better if could have been on St Patrick’s Day itself.”
Those wishing to mark the day can attend a St Patrick’s Day Vigil Mass at Leeds Cathedral on Thursday at 7pm.