THE curtain rises today (Thursday) as Europe’s biggest community festival – Féile an Phobail – sets out its stall for the next ten days.

Everything from street theatre, children’s picnics, carnival parade, concerts, sport, discussions, literary readings and exhibitions will be showcased across West Belfast and beyond as the community festival celebrates its 27th year.

As back stage staff beavered away putting the finishing touches to the Falls Park marquee stage yesterday, Féile Director Kevin Gamble said the 2015 programme “is the most exciting line-up Féile has ever seen”.

“The Falls Park big top is only one of our venue spaces with a huge 5,000 capacity which is set to welcome all the citizens of our city and of course our many visitors. Once again the only thing we are praying for as the festival gets underway is great weather which we haven’t seen much of so far this week,” he laughed.

“There are 400 events across this year’s programme and we feel there is something for everyone. We have some of the biggest international artists coming to perform at the Falls Park, indeed across a number of iconic venues in West Belfast such as Cultúrlann, Rock Bar and Clonard Monastery.

“Personally I’m looking forward to hearing Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the Talkback event next week. He has been the focus lately in the media especially with regards to the Labour leadership contest and it will be great to hear his views on politics here and in general and seeing how the West Belfast audience react to that for me will be fascinating.”

Kevin said that as the festival celebrates its 27th year “we are already planning for our big 30th anniversary which is two and a half years away”.

“We are 27 years going, Féile is Ireland’s biggest community festival and that’s some achievement for West Belfast.”

He added: “90 per cent of our events are free admission, but all the events in the Big Top are ticketed and there are still some tickets left for each of the events.

“We’ve got international author Marian Keyes coming to the Scribes at the Rock event which is a sell out every year and it’s very much a welcome back for her as she read here about six years ago.

“Féile is all about showcasing West Belfast, from our venues, people, and talent and that will be firmly front and centre over the next ten days.”

See our Festivals In The City in today’s issue for all the Féile news.