22 February 2001 Edition

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Draíocht and Féile FM launched


``Something for everyone'' was how children's festival organiser Carol Jackson described this year's Draíocht Féile programme: ``We have the usual mix of arts workshops, mask-making, mime, music, jewellery craft as well as painting workshops with two top Irish artists Jim Fitzpatrick and John Kennedy.''

Last year, over 4,000 children attended Draíocht 2000, making it one of the most successful children's festivals yet held by Féile an Phobail. Festival organisers hope to build on that success.

The festival runs from 5 to 16 March and includes world dance workshops, a fabulous puppet shows from Turbo Prop Theatre Company, plus for the first time Ulster Youth Jazz Orchestra will be performing a concert in St Mary's University College on Thursday 8 March.

Auditions for ``Heart Quest'', a new musical telling the story of CúChulainn and which will be performed during the August festival, are to be held on 5 & 6 March. This is an international project written by Tom O'Connor from Australia.

``This year, Féile has signed up to the Pobal Charter so we will be having more events through the medium of Irish,'' said Carol, ``there's Aisling Ghear's new pantomime `Glas na Cnoic' and `Ababu' a new theatre company who will be performing story telling with a difference.''

In the run up and during the children's festival, Féile FM will be broadcasting it's usual celebratory fare. During two four-week periods last year, it is estimated that 20,000 people tuned in throughout the West Belfast area. Over 800 people were involved in presenting the station's broadcasting, the majority of whom were of secondary school age.


£3.3 million and still no proper funding


``The next 27 days will be bedlam as the whole Féile team swings into action,'' says the Director of Féile an Phobail, Caitríona Ruane. ``This week's launch of Draíocht and Féile FM was accompanied by the publication of an economic appraisal of the impact of Féile an Phobail on the local and wider economy of Belfast city.

``Féile an Phobal generates £3.3 million in one week,'' says Caitríona. ``This is a significant contribution to the economy. In terms of value for money, Féile has a good track record but it's not getting the recognition it deserves.''

West Belfast has the highest long-term unemployment figures in the North of Ireland, with triple the long-term unemployed of any other area in the city. Any project with the ability to generate such a significant contribution to the economy should attract proper funding, she contended.

``If this was in any other city in Ireland,'' says Ruane, ``it would be sufficiently funded.''

As it is, four weeks prior to one of the largest carnivals on the island to celebrate St Patrick's Day, the Féile has only received £3,000 funding from a statutory body, the Arts Council, with a promise of some funding from the Tourist Board. Belfast City Council has refused all funding to the carnival parade.

Addressing the launch of the economic appraisal, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said that the £3.3 million generated by the festival hadn't gone to Féile an Phobal but to local shops, local cafes, and pubs. The local MP pointed out that the City Council had been ordered to pay costs for a court case against funding Féile's St Patrick's Day celebration. Ratepayers' money would have been better spent in supporting the carnival rather than begrudgery, he said.


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