31 July 1997 Edition

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Heading for the Magnetic North

Mick Naughton previews a fistful of festivals

You've heard of the Magnetic North and the True North. Well North Belfast will be both magnetic and truly celebratory for the next week as festival fever strikes the populace.

The opening `fleadh wiggle' from Ardoyne to the New Lodge begins at high noon outside the `Star' in Balholm Drive this Sunday 2 August. This carnival parade will be bringing together all the festivals in North Belfast. That's Ardoyne, the Bone/Oldpark, down the Cliftonville to Duncairn Parade in the New Lodge.

On Friday 1 August the whole shisgabang take off with a mighty traditional session at the grand opening of Molly Maguires beer garden, just off North Queen Street- happy hour 5pm to 6pm. Ardoyne, being a more sober place, has Mass with that fun loving `far east' from the Holy Cross, Father Kenneth incorporating games, music, dancing and the language.

Highlighting Ardoyne's infamous three nights of open air concerts beginning Friday 8 August are the Wolfe Tones, Acoustic Shoe and the fabulous Absolute Beginners. Saturday sees a wealth of local talent from the district, including the legendary Ceili Bandits (remember those balmy afternoons in the Charles Kickhams GAA, also 90 years young this year), Sleeping With Susan, Durkan, Stagger Home (Geek's bunch!) and of course Marty Lundy and Katmandu. Sunday ends with them Clare buckos, Stockton's Wing, The Bhundi Boys, the Whole Shabang and Seanachai playing against a background of the fireworks finale. The previous Sunday sees that Ardoyne tradition, the Guider Grand Prix with Dan the Man, Big Junior and Daylight racing again. Will `The Bullet' or `The Armalite' have their wheels decommissioned? Watch out for sparks flying along Brompton Park.

Tuesday's debate entitled `Policing the Community/Díospóireacht - Políneacht sa Chomhphobal' in the Shamrock will raise that thorny issue, especially as the RUC haven't gone away....yet!

Meanwhile back down `the Lodge' things are moving towards the Cave Hill with birdwatcher Gearóid O Muilleoir and Ruairi MacLeanachain taking nature and history walks. What young Gearoid doesn't know about birdies up that there hill could be written on a postage stamp. Another high spot for the Lodgers is the arrival of internationally renowned harper Janet Harbison at the Ashton centre. But surely the craic will increase when the crossroad ceili outside Dicey Reilly's begins this Saturday afternoon 2nd August.

Members of the Dunleer Ceile House group are coming up for this event organised by Belfast flute maker Sam Murray who has also promised a terrific line up of diddle-e-dee's with the old Rocktown bar (now Molly Maguires) as the base for fiddles, banjos, flutes and other yoodlers.

Inis Sail, Seanachai, More Power To Your Elbow are playing outside the Ashton on Thursday 7th and Summerfly, Breag and the brilliant Brush Shiels are on Friday 8. Admission Free!

Films, debates, quizes, trips to the seaside, open air boxing etc are all included in both packed programmes available at Ardoyne Fleadh Cheoil Office Herbert Street, telephone 751056, ask for Eddie, and New Lodge Festival, Ashton Centre, telephone 742255, mention Cruncher and you'll get a free pint. Believe that and they will put you in the funny farm...along with himself!


West Belfast erupts!

Belfast is to be blitzed again next week when the west of the city sends out shock waves and reverberates to the tenth Féile an Phobail. For a demonstration of energy, people pride, community solidarity and hospitality, it is hard to match. Beginning with a huge carnival parade on Sunday which converges on Woodstock, Falls Park, the highlight this year will be a gesture of friendship with four RAF skydivers nervously descending onto a canvas painted with a huge dove in the football field. The Festival ends sometime in the early hours of Monday week in a mystical place called Springhill. Oasis begged to play there for free but lacked the amplification. And talent.

Not that it's all party-time. This is a community which takes itself seriously and knows why it is on the map. Demonisation makes for victimhood, but West Belfast has long ago transcended the tendency for introversion and is THE flagship in nationalist confidence. Here the Irish language thrives, but humour is the first tongue: the festival radio has a programme named after a hangover tablet; another programme is presented by Memory Man, Fra Coogan, who along with the legendary Finn McCool invented soccer, long before the English discovered the wheel.

And speaking of sport there is the Bobby Sands Cup Memorial Soccer Tournament in Twinbrook and the Mairead Farrell Comogie tournament - two mainstay events in the festival.

There are concerts, plays, exhibitions, lectures and debates, too many to mention, so I'll just single out some which I think to be the most interesting. On Monday lunchtime in the Falls Library, Don Mullin, author of the highly-acclaimed book, `Eyewitness', will present damning evidence against the British authorities over the killings in Derry on Bloody Sunday. On Monday night in Conway Mill will be a screening of a documentary, `The San Patricios', followed by a talk given by Janice Jordan, a San Diegan activist. This fascinating film depicts the tragic story of 500 former US soldiers during the US-Mexican war in the 1840s, most of whom were Irish emigrants. Led by Captain John Riley from Galway they abandoned the US army and fought for Mexican sovereignty. Unfortunately, this event clashes with the Frank Cahill Memorial Lecture which discusses the racism under our noses - Irish attitudes towards Travellers.

Wednesday night in St Louise's School is a political must. On the platform for `Questions and Answers' chaired by Carol Coulter (`Irish Times') is Norman Porter (Ulster Unionist Party and author of `Rethinking Unionism'), Gerry Adams MP, Sile de Valera (Minister of Arts, Gaeltacht, and the Islands) and Bruce Morrison (leading Irish-American poltician). Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds (tipped as a Presidential candidate in the autumn election) will deliver the P.J. McGrory Memorial Lecture in St Agnes' Parish Centre on Saturday, 9th August.

Throughout the week there will be a unique collaboration between Irish muralists and painters from abroad, including two Australian aborigines and Gary White Deer, a Native American from Oklahoma. On a gable next to Culturlann on the Falls Road each artist will make a contribution to a mural commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the death of South African activist Steve Biko.

For details on all events telephone Feile an Phobail at Belfast 313440. But don't mention the RAF skydivers. I was just kiddin'.

By Danny Morrison

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1