TWO of West Belfast’s best-known and hardest working community figures will share this year’s prestigious Aisling Awards Role of Honour accolade at the upcoming gala night in the Europa Hotel.

Tourism dynamo Harry Connolly and Féile boss Kevin Gamble will become the latest recipients of the award when the take to the Europa stage on November 25 for another glittering night when the Belfast Media Group expresses its gratitude to men and women have have made and are continuing to make a vital difference.

 

The award acknowledges those who have made an outstanding contribution to the city and past winners include the Fire and Rescue Service and  veteran Irish language campaigner Fergus Ó hÍr.

Harry Connolly is the Director of Fáilte Feirste Thiar, a local tourism development agency tasked with the responsibility of developing West Belfast’s tourism offering and building sustainable tourism infrastructure and Kevin Gamble is the Director of Féile an Phobail, Ireland’s Biggest Community Arts Festival.

Previous to working in tourism development, Harry worked for a number of years in youth, sport and community development across the greater Belfast area.

Harry is the former vice chairperson of the West Belfast District Policing and Community Safety Partnership (DPCSP), a body established as a result of the developing political process which acknowledged the critical role of policing and justice in the North of Ireland.

He is also a former board member with Visit Belfast, the body tasked with marketing Belfast as a tourism destination and developing strong relationships with key tourism stakeholders across the city and beyond.

Harry is also the chairperson of Féile an Phobail, which has sport, culture, arts, politics and identity as key pillars of its unique experience.

Kevin Gamble took up his current post as Director of Féile an Phobail in 2011, and under his leadership the festival has grown immensely, showcasing the arts, culture and good relations in action and welcoming record audiences to West Belfast and to the arts.

Kevin’s leadership at Féile has ensured that culture arts and tourism play a significant role in the social and economic transformation of West Belfast.

Kevin currently sits on a variety of Boards, providing strategic leadership and insight, including Fáilte Feirste Thiar, the Department for Communities Culture, Arts and Heritage Task Force, the West Belfast Partnership Board, Visit Belfast, Belfast Taxis CIC, and Brassneck Theatre Company.

During the Covid-19 pandemic Kevin Gamble was appointed to the Covid Recovery Events Task Force and played a leading role in the re-emergence of the events and entertainment industry in a safe and concerted manner, with Féile an Phobail’s 2021 August Festival hosting the first return of major live events on the island.

As a co-founder of Áras Uí Chonghaile, Belfast’s latest award-winning visitor attraction which opened in April 2019, Harry Connolly has led the development of the James Connolly project. He is also a board member with Tourism Ireland, the national marketing body for the island of Ireland.

Harry has taken the opportunity provided by peace to develop the West Belfast tourism product and infrastructure, supporting tourism related business and social enterprises, promoting local social and economic regeneration, and promoting tourism and sport as a model for delivering peace and reconciliation.

Harry’s work in developing and transforming West Belfast through tourism has been showcased across the world as a model of best practice with the prestigious United Nations World Tourism Organisation.

He has been central to the development of strategies that market the uniqueness of West Belfast as a tourist attraction, re-branding the area as the place to visit in the city.

Most recently Harry contributed to a ground-breaking report outlining the potential to grow Community Wealth Building locally as part of a commissioned Ministerial Advisory Panel.