Susan Kirby

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Susan Kirby

CEO, St Patrick’s Festival, Dublin

PRESENTATION TOPIC: St Patrick’s Festival – Location: Dublin, Impact: Global

An engaging and active cultural ambassador, Susan Kirby has worked in the arts for over 20 years, the last of which have been focused on leading major cultural initiatives across Ireland’s festival sector. Susan joined the award-winning St. Patrick’s Festival in 2007 as Marketing & Communications Director – in this role she spearheaded all marketing strategies, festival communications and PR, sponsorship and key stakeholder management.

Susan has held the position of CEO of St. Patrick’s Festival since 2009 where she has grown the impact of the festival exponentially. Career highlights include lobbying Government to recognise the festival as ‘strategically important to the National agenda’, commissioning independent analysis demonstrating the economic impact of St. Patrick’s Festival and the €73 million return it makes to the wider economy, and developing the profile of the event among international festivals as a global expression of Ireland.

Career highlights prior to joining St. Patrick’s Festival include Marketing & Communications Director at The Gaiety Theatre, a 1,100-seater theatre and performance venue in Dublin city and Marketing Manager at Triskel Arts Centre, Cork which hosted luminary events such as Cork Jazz Festival and Cork Midsummer Festival, along with a multi-disciplinary programme of visual arts, live performance and community outreach.

During her time as Festival CEO, Susan has also delivered other major events and festivals including;

  • Skyfest fireworks and live broadcast spectacular in multiple locations around Ireland.
  • Dublin Contemporary 2011, Ireland’s largest multi-venue contemporary art exhibition.
  • Bram Stoker Festival.
  • UNESCO Dublin City of Literature designation signature event, DublinSwell featuring luminaries such as Seamus Heaney, Roddy Doyle and Damien Dempsey.
  • GAA 125th Anniversary celebrations including the opening ceremony stadium and fireworks spectacle.

Susan is an active member of several business and cultural industry groups and she holds an honors bachelor’s degree in Marketing & International Business from Trinity College, Dublin and a Higher Diploma in Marketing from DIT.

Susan is known for her passion for creating visceral artistic experience’s and she believes that a small island in the Atlantic will lead globally through the expression of its potent cultural life.

Session Overview

St Patrick’s Festival is a priceless National asset & the largest most accessible celebration of contemporary Irish culture and rich Irish heritage globally.


The festival has identified 5 pillars for success:

Programme Excellence & exceptional audience experiences

  1. Best practice production planning & delivery
  2. Exemplary governance & operational procedures
  3. Stable & sustainable financial & funding model
  4. An ambitious development plan
  5. A compelling marketing & communications strategy


How do we articulate the wider impact of the festival:

  • A democratic expression of joy, community and diversity
  • An incomparable global expression of Ireland
  • A source of pride to the Irish people
  • Positioning Ireland as an attractive, creative, international destination
  • An intrinsic pillar of Irish Foreign Policy and a space where Ireland can lead through soft power
  • Approaching the 25th anniversary of its foundation, there is an opportunity to take the festival into its next exciting phase of development

Three key takeaways from Susan’s presentation

  • An understanding of the power and importance of festivals and events.
  • How to leverage strategic partnerships to increase your festivals impact exponentially.
  • An understanding of the importance of constant innovation and development of your festival.

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