Charity Birthdays to Take the Nation by Storm!

It seems being nice is the new 'in' thing. 'Charity Birthdays' or CBs are the latest trend for those in their late 20s and early 30s, and are to become the rage in Ireland this year.

In sharp contrast to the image of the self-centred youth which dominated the Noughties, increasing numbers of young professionals are now seeking to use the occasion of their birthday to raise money for worthy causes at a time of such economic hardship.

The new trend is a welcome development for struggling Irish charities, which have seen their funding come under huge pressure because of the economic downturn.

In recent months, rather than indulging in vanity exercises, increasing numbers of young Irish men and women are choosing instead to offer up their special night for a charity of their choice.

One such person holding an event in the coming weeks is JP Swaine, who, instead of having a regular 30th birthday party, is running an event entitled 'First Fortnight' in aid of Mental Health Ireland in Andrew's Lane Theatre in Dublin.

Mr Swaine, a social worker, admits that the initial reason for running the event was to get all his friends and family in the one room together. He, along with his friend David Keegan, who is an event organiser, have worked night and day in recent weeks to put the event together.

"I come from a big family and trying to get all of them in the room at the one time is impossible. But, when the idea came about to do the night, it's like no one could say "no". For so many people birthdays are about getting presents, or being the centre of attention, whereas I have said to everyone that the only present I want is them to show up and pay €10 toward a very worthy cause," Mr Swaine said.

The First Fortnight idea ties in with the first two weeks of the year being especially difficult for those dealing with mental illness, and Mr Swaine and Mr Keegan were keen to replace the negative stereotypes of mental health with positive ones.

"After Christmas is always a very tough time for those affected by depression and those working with those who suffer from it. In this country, we sweep everything under the carpet from December 15 and we say we'll deal with it in the new year. From the high of Christmas comes a terrible low, so we want to address that with the event."

Mr Swaine and Mr Keegan have been amazed by the reaction from friends and family but also from those who he has asked to get involved.

"The response from everyone has been amazing. None of the bands has looked for money, and they are doing it all for free; the venue has been fantastic in accommodating us. We are hoping to pack it out on the night, which would be great," Mr Swaine said.

First Fortnight happens on January 15 at Andrew's Lane Theatre, Dublin. Tickets €10. Costumes for the publicity picture were donated by The Retro Shop, George's Arcade, Dublin 2.


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