Pittsburgh celebrates all things British at festival

Derek Stuart, 53, almost wore a kilt to this year’s Britsburgh.

Instead, he and his wife, Rona Moody, 63, arrived recently at Highmark Stadium on the South Side decked out in Scottish paraphernalia to support Pittsburgh’s first “festival of Britain in Pittsburgh.” The Scottish couple have lived in Fox Chapel for eight years.

“I had no idea there were this many British people here in the city,” Moody said. “It sounded like such a fun event, and we wanted to be part of it.”

Roger Cranville, president of British-American Connections Pittsburgh, said organizers are looking to turn what Mayor Bill Peduto’s office has dubbed as Britsburgh Week – a week of British-themed festivities – into an annual event.

More than 100 attendees turned out for the last full day of events to snack on traditional British dishes including sausage rolls, bread pudding and fish and chips while watching a series of cricket, rugby and soccer games. People lined up for free beer tastings and henna tattoos while listening to songs from local band Donnie Irish.

“We weren’t really sure of how many people to expect because you’re dependent on the weather, really,” Cranville said. “But the rain makes it a perfect English day.”

Britsburgh Week will close with a final concert tonight at Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside, featuring Trinity College Choir of Cambridge, England.

Joel Lindsey, 33, of Marshall-Shadeland, said Pittsburgh “reminds him of home.”

“There are a lot of ties between everything Pittsburgh and British,” the London native said. “There are similar types of food here, a strong love of beer, Pittsburghers are huge sports fans … I’ve traveled to a lot of cities in the United States, but this was the first place that really felt familiar.”

It was mostly the sports matches that drew Fredy Daruwalla, 38, of Gibsonia, and his family to the stadium. His wife loves cricket, he said, and his son is beginning to learn soccer.

“We want to make sure we expose our kids to something different, not so traditionally American,” he said. “I love that there are more diverse offerings here with the food, sports, everything. I definitely think it’s something Pittsburgh could use more of.”

One of the highlights of the evening was the much-anticipated Queen Elizabeth II look-alike competition, scheduled the same week as her milestone in becoming Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

Cameron Perkins, 11, donned a long white dress with a tiara, satin blue sash and gloves inspired by an early 20th century photo she’d seen of the queen for the competition.

Joan Cynkar, 84, sported a British flag with her white hat, pearls and handbag as she took photos next to a Queen Elizabeth II pop-up.

“I love America and I love Britain, my home,” she said, grinning from ear to ear Sunday evening. “This is a way for me to celebrate them both.”