Fresh from the success of its first ever online Virtual Féile in August last year, the dynamic team at Féile an Phobail have put together a fantastic programme of events for Féile an Earraigh, the annual Spring Festival, which takes place online from today through to 17th March

Féile Director Kevin Gamble gave us a taste of what Féile an Earraigh 2021 has to offer.

“Each year our Spring Festival, Féile an Earraigh, continues to grow, with over 100 events this March.

“Springtime brings a renewal of relationships with our festival partners, communities, funders, sponsors, artists, and great friends and I am delighted to see all our key stakeholders represented once more in this year’s programme.

“Féile an Earraigh is programmed to coincide with the celebration of our patron saint, St Patrick, and this year will deliver a wonderful mix of traditional music, talks, tours, family events, and a St Patrick’s Day extravaganza of traditional music, arts, sports and cultural events.

“We’ve often heard it said that traditional music embodies the spirit of the people of Ireland. During these challenging times, as we all navigate our way through as a community, Féile an Earraigh invites you take a seat at home, and enjoy the sounds, sights and magic of Irish traditional culture and arts.”

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, said:

“The Arts Council is delighted to have been able to support this key organisation as it has adapted and risen to meet the challenges of ensuring that the ‘show will go on’ during these exceptional times.

“Yes, Féile an Earraigh will feel a little bit different this year but you can still look forward to great entertainment that will help lift everyone’s spirits. I hope you enjoy the festival!”

Belfast Lord Mayor Frank McCoubrey said:

“Despite the current restrictions impacting on the ability to offer large scale live events, this popular spring festival is offering an impressive line-up of virtual activities and performances to celebrate the Irish language and traditional music and culture.

In fact, this year’s virtual Féile an Earraigh is an opportunity to attract and inspire an even wider audience from across different locations, age groups and backgrounds who can tune in from the comfort their own home.”

Kevin Gamble outlined the main highlights of this years Féile an Earraigh.

“Some of the highlights of this March’s Spring festival include our Amateur Photography Competition which is open to everyone. The winners will have their work displayed at our Visual Arts exhibition during our August Féile.

“We have a series of GAA training sessions with Antrim GAA stars, including Áine Tubridy, Stevie Rooney, Neil McManus, and Declan Lynch.

“We also have a host of Féile an Earraigh Tours including Tom Hartley’s famous City Cemetery Tour, a United Irishmen Tour, a Black Taxi mural tour and the Belfast Place Names tour.

“100 years after partition, we have a ‘Unity or Union: 100 Years On’ series of debates and discussions, examining the constitutional and economic arguments that are now central to our future.

“Other discussions taking place are our annual Youth Talks Back event and a discussion with Pat Cullen, Director of the Royal College of Nursing titled On the Front Line: Nurses in the Pandemic.

“Our International Night Concert takes place on Friday 12th March, with live music from Latin America and Spain, as part of Belfast’s celebrations of world cultures 2021.

“International Women’s Day is packed with events, including Pretty’n’Pink’s Be Breast Aware session; In My Own Write poetry and prose readings; A Women’s Constitution: Won for All discussion; Inspirational Women, Powerful Music featuring Niamh Nic Ionnrachtaigh; Women Who Changed Our Worlds discussion; and a discussion on the Report on Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries.

“Top class daily Irish traditional music sessions and a series of headline Irish Trad gigs with world class musicians will take place.

“An Evening of Songs of Struggle and Revolution on 16th March in Áras Uí Chonghaile, with Fergus Ó hÍr and friends, will be one of the music highlights.

“On St Patrick’s Day the Craic 10k and 5K Virtual is going global with runners across the world invited to take part. For more information go to aislingevents.com. Thousands take part in this huge event which is now in its seventh year, and you should get registered now and get yourself ready for this great event. 

“Our St Patrick’s Day live music extravaganzabegins at 5pm with Irish folk and trad music from The Cavemen, followed at 7pm by Brendan Quinn, Robbie Walsh and Patrick O’Hare, then the Mac Corraidh music family at 8pm, and finally at 9pm The Rapparees. What a night this will be to enjoy from the safety of your home!

“Féile is a powerful advertisement for the incredible, talented and creative community that is west Belfast and this year’s Féile an Earraigh, while online, is going to be the biggest yet.

“It is fantastic to see so many traditional musicians, community groups, Irish language groups, youth groups and local businesses taking part and making a great effort to keep building on the tremendous success of Féile. 

“I hope you all watch and enjoy!”