FÉILE an Phobail Director Kevin Gamble is pledging that this year's August carnival will play a key role in rebuilding community spirit in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis.

"When times get tough, the community of West Belfast and Féile an Phobail are never found wanting," he said.  "If you think back to why Féile was started, it was — and continues to be — all about portraying the positive side of our community which at the time was being suppressed by the media and others. Féile always provided a platform for that community spirit, resilience, hope, joy, celebration and cohesion."

And the Féile chief says he's been buoyed by the coming together of the community since the Covid-19 storm hit.

“Our health workers, emergency services, pharmacists, transport providers, teachers, care assistants and many more are on the front line doing amazing work," he said. "I am inspired by the campaign in the Upper Springfield (Ar scáth a chéile), St James Swifts looking after the elderly in their area, and the work of  the GAA family — all are coming together to support our community."

The thirty-strong Féile team, comprising full-time workers, board members and volunteers, has continued pulling together the elements of this year's extravaganza.

“We are keeping our morale high, and supporting each other as best we can,” insists Kevin Gamble. “While staff are working from home, we are in daily contact through video conferencing and email updates. At this stage plans are at an advanced phase, and although 2019 will be hard to beat, this year’s Féile is shaping up to be the best yet. Féile will definitely be a celebration of our community’s resilience in getting through this surreal pandemic,” he said.

Scheduled to run from July 30 to August 9, the Féile will build on Féile an Earraigh which played to full-houses before being shortened due to the crisis.

Adds Kevin: “Of course we are keeping abreast of weekly and daily developments, and we are relying on support and guidance from our key stakeholders and the community. The people have been very slow to show their support for Féile. Even our most recent online photography competition received over 8,000 votes. I have no doubt that, once plans are released, the community will come out in force again to support the Féile."