17 July 2008 Edition
Féile an Phobail's 20th Birthday Party: 3rd to 10th August 2008
Fun, frolics, politics and helicopters
BY PEADAR WHELAN
BELFAST’S Sinn Féin mayor, Councillor Tom Hartley, last week launched this year’s Féile an Phobail in west Belfast, celebrating the 20th birthday of Europe’s largest community festival.
The week-long packed programme – from 3 to 10 August – offers people entertainment, arts, creativity, debates, politics... and lots of fun!
The Féile, Tom reminded his audience in the Falls Bowling Club last Thursday, was conceived in the hard times of the late 1980s when nationalist west Belfast was being demonised in the media by British, unionist and indeed Establishment Irish politicians whose agenda was about defeating republicanism.
“The people of West Belfast responded to the negative portrayal of their area by unleashing the creative energy that had sustained them through years of struggle and oppression,” Tom said.
“So instead of setting bonfires, which provided the crown forces with an opportunity for conflict, the West Belfast Festival organisers harnessed all that is good about our community to make August a time of celebration.”
That Féile an Phobail is celebrating its 20th birthday is testament to the commitment of the people of West Belfast to the ethos of Féile.
That ethos has seen many unionist politicians who have made a career out of demonising nationalists being welcomed to the area for political debates.
And this year is no different as the DUP’s Nelson McCausland and Dawn Purves of the Progressive Unionist Party share a platform with deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin.
Former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan will deliver the annual PJ McGrory Human Rights Lecture, while Bernadette McAliskey is the speaker for this year’s Frank Cahill Memorial lecture to be held in Conway Mill.
Apart from the politics, the rest of the programme is jam-packed with entertainment.
Brilliant music is provided by Flook, The Four of Us, Neville Staple, west Belfast’s very own Brian Kennedy and plenty of Irish music.
Also, in this 40th anniversary year of the Civil Rights campaign, there is Simple Songs of Freedom in St Gall’s GAC on the Falls Road on Sunday, 3 August.
The big lift-off this year will be provided by the Féile Helicopter.
Helicopters were once the bain of nationalist life, a British Army ‘spy in the sky’ keeping west Belfast under 24-hour surveillance (except when loyalist paramilitaries were on the prowl and they suddenly disappeared), so this year, for the first time, Féile is giving people the chance to see west Belfast from the air.
There is limited space so book your tickets early.
Needless to say, Féile has organised some exceptional exhibitions, dramas and film showings – don’t miss The Battle for Algiers and other films of international acclaim – in St Mary’s College from Monday, 4 August (free admission).
This reporter could write about Féile and what it has to offer all day so the best advice I can give to anyone interested in attending any of the events is to get your own programme from Féile, phone 90 313440 for further information or go to www.feilebelfast.com