We want everyone to feel welcome – BlueFire CEO Keren Jackson

By Ayomide Akinshilo / September 19, 2019

Diverse, multicultural, thrilling and fun. That is what the BlueFire Festival want to be. 

The festival, which is in its 7th year and promotes interculturalism, was the brainchild of then 19-year-old Keren Jackson who had just moved back to Ireland after a few years in Barcelona. 

The 2019 BlueFire festival will be held on Saturday, the 21st of September, which is also the International Peace Day. 

Despite falling on such a momentous day, Keren says it is all coincidental.

“Our event for the past seven years has always been the third Saturday in September and we were delighted about it,” she says. 

Keren describes peace as more than just a lack of wars but also a collaboration of different cultures and traditions.

She said: “Interculturalism in many ways is about peace. Peace is such a broad word and when we talk about peace, we talk about no wars. But, peace also means harmony, collaboration and the ability to live together in a healthy and constructive way.”

Keren says the BlueFire Festival was something she decided to establish having lived in Barcelona and discovered how oblivious she was to racism. 

She said: “Living in a white culture can make you ignorant of this (racism) and I got a shock when I started living in a Gambian community in Barcelona. 

“I saw racism and how bad it can be in a community that doesn’t embrace diversity. Then when I came back to Dublin, I discovered it (Dublin) was quite racist.”

“It was a desire to ensure that everyone who lived here, knew they belonged here and also a desire to allow Irish people to meet people from other cultures.”

“We have a duty as a host community, we have to put out our hand and say welcome. This was also the idea of the BlueFire; to allow Irish people to say ‘you are part of our community’”. 

Despite the social and moral motivations for the BlueFire being created, Keren admits that the fun side (music, dance) was another reason why the festival was created. 

Keren admits there were setbacks initially from both the Irish population and the non-Irish population. 

“I had a lot of friends who said ‘that is not for me’ as there was a lack of understanding that the intercultural space is actually for everyone,’ she said. 

As regards the BlueFire festival target audience, Keren says the event isn’t set up for a certain race or culture but rather people for different ethnicities, ages and all genders. 

Keren adds that while she wants the festival to continue yearly, the financial constraints will be put into consideration before each event. 

“Even though our funding, supporters and followers have grown over the years, it gets costly,” she said. 

“Initially, it was run by volunteers but it is no longer sustainable and we are at the point where we need who will work with us 12 months of the year.” 

The one-day, all-ages 2019 BlueFire festival will take place on Saturday 21st September in Smithfield Square, Dublin.

This is the 7th festival which is held annually in Dublin. BlueFire is the first Irish organisation to launch a Music Declares Emergency stage with live music.

About the author

Ayomide Akinshilo

Ayomide is a journalist and editor with a passion for sports, video games and African culture. He has degrees in Mass Communication, Journalism and Media Communication.

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