Celtic and Irish Cultural Society’s Grace Kenny is crowned the London Rose of Tralee 2013.

The night of 12th April – or the early morning of the 13th – was a time of celebrations as Crawley’s Grace Kenny with roots in Tullow,  Co Carlow and sponsored by the Celtic and Irish Cultural Society was crowned London Rose of Tralee 2013.

Sean Moriarty of the Irish World covered the event and we thank him for allowing his piece to be posted here……….

Grace Kenny, London Rose of Tralee 2013

Judges lose their hearts to a Crawley Girl

A former Britain’s Got Talent contestant has been named as the 2013 London Rose.

Grace Kenny from Crawley, Sussex and a political student at Portsmouth University, is a member of the Celtic Coleens Irish dance troupe that made it to the semi-finals of the popular television series two years ago.

The 21-year-old was selected from 13 other hopefuls from at the annual London Rose of Tralee selection ball at the Crown Moran Hotel in Cricklewood on Friday night.

Grace, whose late father Martin hails from Tullow in County Carlow and whose mother, Ronnie, is from Kent, represented the Celtic and Irish Cultural Society, on the night.

She wowed the judges with her Irish dancing and clearly demonstrated why she finished eighth in the world championships in Dusseldorf, Germany, a few years ago.

Grace with best friends Laura Eliott and Tara Mooney

She also impressed the 250-strong audience with her stories of world travel and helping the less well off in Nepal and why she believes that politics is not boring and her ambitions to make it interesting to younger people.

Grace was in a state of shock when her name was called out by chairman of the organising committee, Noel O’Sullivan.

She said: “I could not believe it, I stood there and had to second guess myself and saw all the other Roses looking at me. It still has not sunk in. I am so excited to be the London Rose of Tralee. I heard my name being called out and then saw my family and friends all looking so happy. I was shaking like a leaf. It is so exciting. I am been asked to do interviews and I am being called for photos. I don’t know what way to look. I can’t express how honoured and flattered I am. I want to do everything I can to represent the Irish community in the greater London area. I want to show how proud and how strong the community is in this country. I will give it my all. My dad would be so proud now . This would mean more than the world to him. Mum is over the moon too. “

Grace with proud Mum Ronnie (Veronica)

Her mother, Ronnie (Veronica) was amongst the 30 strong group of supporters that travelled from Crawley to London for the big occasion.

After Grace’s name was called out she told the Irish World: “I can’t believe it. She lost her dad three years ago. I am so proud of her and all her family are so proud of her. It is amazing. She has been Irish dancing since she was four. She is so focused on everything she does. It has happened so quickly. This is just marvellous.”

Grace was sponsored on the night by the Celtic and Irish Culture Society, organisers of the Crawley Irish Festival each August.

CICS chairman John Nolan was also in the Crown Moran Hotel on Friday night to support Grace. Mr Nolan is also involved in the Carlow Association in London so there was a double reason to celebrate given Grace’s Tullow heritage. It was the first time that CICS entered the London heat.

He told the Irish World: “I looked high and low to see who we could nominate. Grace stood out a mile. It was the way she performed on Britain’s Got Talent that swung it. She said a few words to the audience, live on television, in front of 11 million people, of how she appreciated the input of the Irish community in Crawley in her life. She stands for the principles of the Rose of Tralee and we are delighted.”

Grace is crowned by last years rose Nóra Ní Fhlannagáin

Grace will now go forward to the Rose of Tralee Regional finals in Portlaoise in late May and early June.

She follows in the footsteps of outgoing London Rose Nora Ni Fhlannagain who was on hand to present Grace with her official London Rose sash.

Nora said:”I have had an incredible year. I want to express my gratitude to the London committee, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes that I never knew about, like the effort that is gone in tonight. Only one person can go away with the London sash but all 14 contestants here tonight can go away with great memories. This is a life changing experience – even for this who don’t win on the night. Some of my highlights have been meeting President  Higgins when he came to Ruislip, meeting Enda Kenny, I have been held in the air by London Irish Rugby Club players and I have meet Irish Paralympians. I have met some incredible London Irish people and that has all been made possible by the London Irish community. I have been welcomed with open arms by that community. “

Grace being interviewed by Sean Moriarity of the Irish World

Another guest of honour was current Rose of Tralee, Nicola McEvoy from Luxembourg. This was Nicola’s only official London appearance as part of her year-long Rose of Tralee activities.

She said: “It was fantastic evening and it is great to be back in London, I lived in Kent before I moved to Luxembourg. I want to congratulate Nora on being a fantastic London Rose and being a fantastic representative for the city. She has become a real good, lifelong friend and that is one of the beauties of the Rose of Tralee International Festival. I am eight months into my year as the International Rose and I have found myself in places I never imagined I would be in. My face is on milk cartons in Kerry, I have sang a song, in Bengali, in front of 2,000 children in Calcutta, I stood between Peter Robinson and Martin McGuiness in Stormont. My biggest highlight was travelling to America in March, participating in the New York St Patrick’s Day parade and travelling to Washington and standing in the East Wing of the White House and meeting President Obama.

Grace's supporters in the crowd.

The Kerry mayor Terry O’Brien travelled over to represent the county and the Rose of Tralee head office.

He said: “I was expecting to be in the 33rd county but in reality this is more like the 11th or 12th county such is the Irishness that was in that room on the night. The quality of the Roses was brilliant , when I saw the first one I picked the winner, then I said the same about the second and the third. It is as a credit to the London Centre that they can fly the flag for Tralee over here. “