In honour of St Patrick’s Day Woman This Month chatted to Anni Kavanagh, winner of the first Bahrain Rose contest as the competition gets ready for its second year.
Woman This Month: Tell us a bit about the Bahrain Rose and the international competition.
Anni Kavanagh: The Rose of Tralee Festival is a multi-faceted event that celebrates the many attributes of modern young Irish women. Roses are chosen by centres worldwide and in Ireland. Entrants take part in local heats to find one person to represent the centre in the final. Judges consider many different qualities including, in the words of William Mulchinock’s song ‘The Rose of Tralee’, an indefinable quality that captures “the truth in her eyes”. The Rose of Tralee International Festival celebrates modern young women in terms of their aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social responsibility and Irish heritage.
WTM: What made you decide to get involved?
AK: Watching the Rose of Tralee when I was younger was one of the highlights of the summer. The beautiful ladies, their gorgeous dresses, their party pieces and the knights in shinning armour (the escorts) – it was all very magical. I’d watch in awe as the women would take the stage in their finery and spend days afterwards dreaming about being a Rose. Given that I was a tomboy (allergic to dresses), this was a big dream. Now, having lived abroad and travelled to numerous destinations, I got involved as I am very proud of my Irish heritage and the Rose of Tralee is a big part of showcasing this heritage. Working for RCSI Bahrain and being part of the Arabian Celts showed me how strong the Irish bond is, not only with each other but the rest of the world. I knew that representing Bahrain would be an amazing opportunity to showcase this little island and its beauty, as well as representing the Irish contingent that calls the island home.
WTM: How did you feel when you won?
AK: I was very shocked. I knew all the other girls as most of us play Gaelic football with the Arabian Celts Gaelic football club. It was a great experience to share and, although it was a competition, we supported each other throughout. After the shock subsided, I was so happy and so proud. It was a huge honour to know I was going to represent Bahrain as the first Rose.
WTM: Does that mean going on to the international contest and how did that go?
AK: Having won the Bahrain Rose, the next step was to attend the Rose of Tralee Regional Festival which is held in Portlaoise, in Ireland. It’s held every year to determine which Roses will represent their territories at the Rose of Tralee International Festival in August. The event was originally established in 2004 in recognition of the fact that now every county in Ireland selects a Rose and there are now nearly 70 Rose Centres around the world. The Regional Festival is the event established to get this number of Roses down to the 32 who appear on the RTÉ television show in August. I was unlucky not to be chosen as one of the 32 Roses to appear on the RTÉ television show, but the Middle East was well represented by both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai Roses.
WTM: What activities have you been involved in as the Bahrain Rose?
AK: I worked with the Bahrain Irish Society which does some great work for charities here in the Kingdom. The Irish Society will be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and is a great outlet for newcomers to the island. The society raises funds by running different events like the St Patrick’s Ball and the Bahrain Irish Festival and all profits go to charity. I was involved in the Feed the Family campaign where the Irish Society raised enough funds to feed 150 families for the month of June or 13 families for a year. The campaign is run by another charity organisation on the island – the Palm Association – and the Irish Society works very closely with its members on the campaign. I was also involved in another charity called Friendship for the Blind, which helps families with children and young adults who are blind. I was delighted to be involved in handing over toys, gifts and furniture.
WTM: Is it something you would recommend to other girls?
AK: Definitely. As clichéd as it sounds, I have made friends for life and memories I will always treasure. I had an amazing time at every step of the process from the Bahrain Rose competition through to the Regional Festival where I got to spend five wonderful days with 60 beautiful ladies from around the world, to then attending the International Festival in Tralee, as one of the 2014 Roses. Also, being part of the Rose Family has allowed me to become part of an amazing worldwide network – being able to get involved in great events like the Tralee 10K to fund raise for the Friends of A Charity, attending the RTE New Years Eve Festival as the Bahrain Rose and helping my fellow Roses raise funds for Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children’s International Fund which a number of them will visit in the coming weeks.
WTM: Will you be entering other competitions?
AK: I don’t have plans to enter any competitions at the moment…. Well, apart from the odd GAA tournament with my fellow Arabian Celt Ladies.