TODAY commemorates a very special occasion on the Irish calendar.

This year St Patrick’s Day falls on Sunday March 17 extending the celebrations - which will probably already be in full swing by then - over the weekend.

“It’s an excuse to get together and have a party,” says Sinead Engel.

For the 40-year-old mother-of-four from Bradford, St Patrick’s Day is very much about family and celebrating the Irish culture.

Her late mum, Adrienne, ‘was a Dubliner,’ Sinead explains and while Sinead was born and brought up in Bradford, she acknowledges her heritage and is very much part of the city’s Irish culture and community.

Some of the fond memories she has of celebrating St Patrick’s Day over the years are of step dancing at the Queen’s Hall as a young girl.

As a set dancer and flute player Sinead is used to entertaining and still enjoys participating in music sessions with her flute when she can - although family very much comes first.

“When I was a kid I remember I always had a day off school and we would get musicians and dancers and I remember going and performing in residential homes.

“We would put on a show and sing songs for residents in various residential care homes which was lovely,” says Sinead.

In later years she recalls going into local schools and being involved in the Irish-themed activities and Ceilidh dancing.

“In the playground at lunchtime instead of playing football the children were all dancing,” recalls Sinead.

She says St Patrick’s Day is a ‘celebration’ which brings people together to celebrate St Patrick, the patron Saint of Ireland who played an important part in converting the country to Christianity.

St Patrick’s Day celebrations are also a celebration of the Irish culture which have been very much part of Bradford since the 1840s according to Sinead.

“If you look at the 1841 Census of the population of Bradford there was around 50,000. By 1851 it was about 150,000 - that coincided with the famine or starvation in the 1840s and also coincided with the increasing industrialisation - they came for work. There was a lot of Irish people coming to work in the mills and fleeing starvation at home,” says Sinead.

The establishment of Bradford Irish Club provided a hub for the Irish community; a place of carrying on the culture through music and dancing.

Its closure, a few years ago, has prompted Bradford Irish Society to kick-start a campaign to create another venue for the Irish community which they hope to fund through the recently launched Celtic Community Lottery. The first draw took place yesterday (March 16) and offers a jackpot of £25,000.

This year Sinead will be celebrating with her family: “I might teach my children some new tunes,” she says, referring to her brood who are aged 17, 10, seven and two.

“I can be a Bradfordian and Irish at the same time and passing on the tradition and the good memories and experiences I had a child - I want my children to experience that as well because of their cultural heritage,” says Sinead.