Solo St David's Day parade for ex-Hakin boy

Solo St David's Day parade for ex-Hakin boy

PICTURE: Hong-An Tran

PICTURE: Hong-An Tran

PICTURE: Hong-An Tran

First published in News
Last updated

YOU can take the man out of Wales, but you can’t stop him celebrating St David’s Day – even if he has to do it alone.

Forty-nine-year-old Illtyd Barrett moved to New York 20 years ago, where he works as a sculptor.

But despite living in one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, the former “Hakin boy” said he has struggled to find people to join him in his annual celebration of Wales’ patron saint.

Undeterred by a lack of support, on March 1, dressed in a Wales top, and carrying a huge Welsh flag and a bunch of leeks, Illtyd once again took to the streets of New York to celebrate his heritage.

“I’ve done it every year,” said Illtyd. “I get dressed up and walk around and people say I’m nuts.”

Despite the occasional odd look, Illtyd thinks it’s important to celebrate his culture – even though he is 3,000 miles away from home.

“It’s an expression of who I am – I’m really proud to be Welsh.”

Describing life in America as a Welshman, Illtyd said what he likes best is the way New Yorkers embrace people from all cultures and ways of life.

“It’s the kind of place you can walk down the road at 5am in a tutu an no-one will bat an eyelid,” he said.

Determined to help put Wales on the map in America, Illtyd is now looking at opening the city’s first ever Welsh restaurant, and hopes to establish an annual St David’s Day parade.

Explaining why he thinks his plans will work, he said: “I think in New York more than anywhere else people are curious about other people’s backgrounds.”

But he believes the Welsh government must to do more to promote Wales across the pond.

“The Irish and the Scots have a fantastic marketing ability, and we just don’t,” he said. “The Welsh Government needs to do more to publicise and celebrate Welsh culture and artists abroad.”

Illtyd is currently busy preparing for an exhibition of British artists' work – of which he is the only Welshman – in the city in June.

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