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Programme runs for 108 jam-packed Féile pages

Big fun in the Big Tent as the West prepares to party

The impressive Big Tent in the Falls Park The impressive Big Tent in the Falls Park
By Anthony Neeson

The variety and sheer scale of events taking place during Féile an Phobail, which starts today, Thursday, and runs over the next 11 days, is best illustrated by the fact that this year’s programme runs to 108 pages.

Celebrating its 25th birthday, Ireland biggest community arts festival and summer school is packed with music, plays, debates, talks, exhibitions, comedy, dance, sport, family events, and whatever else you’re having, thank you. As a result, more and more venues than ever have opened their doors to Féile, which this year is notable for having several events taking place on the Shankill.

From the city centre up to Colin, the road over the next week and a half will be filled with thousands of visitors who are increasingly pencilling Féile into their ‘to-do’ lists for the summer. And while many talks and tours give visitors and locals alike the opportunity to probe and analyse important issues and events, the arts and entertainment side of the festival is an opportunity to let the hair down and enjoy the craic with friends.

And this year Féile have pulled out the stops.

LAPD – Liam O’Flynn, Andy Irvine, Paddy Glackin and Dónal Lunny to you and me, who individually played in Planxty, the Bothy Band and Moving Hearts – are set for the Big Top in the Falls Park this weekend. The tent, which holds an increased capacity of 3,000, is a further indicator of the strength of this year’s line-up and the demand for tickets. West Belfast singer Gráinne Holland is also on the same bill, but other musical acts heading to the West over the next 11 days also whet the appetite, including Cara Dillon, Happy Mondays, The Charlatans, the Ulster Orchestra and The Priests, The Wolfe Tones, The Coronas, The Beat, Damien Dempsey and local favourite Joby Fox.

Paddy Kielty will headline this year’s always popular Comedy Night, while internationally acclaimed Belfast actor Ciarán Hinds will also be in the West for a guest interview at Coláiste Feirste. And the acting theme continues with West Belfast showcasing its writing and theatrical talent with the award-winning A Night With George back (but this time it’s Two Nights With George), the much anticipated Baby It’s Cold Outside, as well as The Sweety Bottle, which enjoyed a successful run in West Belfast in March. Screenwriter and playwright Peter Sheridan will be joined at the ever-popular Scribes At The Rock by Holly McNish, whose anti-racism poem Mathematics went viral on YouTube, as well as novelist Michael Harding.

As usual you can catch  exhibitions at St Mary’s University College and the Conway Mill, while the Cultúrlann is putting on its own extensive clár during the course of Féile – as well as that there will be traditional music every day in the Cultúrlann café from noon.

Robbie Burns, Thomas Clarke, the Irish who fought for the British in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Long Kesh conflict resolution centre, Israel-Palestine, the McGurk’s and Ballymurphy massacres, Abraham Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd Lincoln and the Dublin Lockout are just some of the issues up for discussion and debate. Not forgetting West Belfast Talks Back.

There may be no icebergs in the heat of Belfast this August, but this really is only the tip of something that remarkably resembles one.

For ticket info contact or phone Féile offices on 028 9031 3440.

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