Feile an Phobail
Féile an Phobail, also known as the West Belfast Festival is a community arts organisation world-famous for its August Féile (Festival). The organisation is prominent for its promotion of Irish and international culture. The festival takes place on and around Falls Road in Belfast.
The festival was established in 1988 as a direct response to the troubles, and specifically after the events of March 1988 when the SAS killed three PIRA volunteers in Gibraltar. At one of the funerals of the three murdered, two British servicemen were killed when their car stalled near the cortege. The community of West Belfast fell victim to intense media scrutiny and were described by the BBC as a terrorist community.City Rocks During Festival - BBC NI
Seeing this portrayal of their community as negative, misleading and damaging, Gerry Adams gathered a small amount of friends and various local groups to organise a community festival. Its purpose was to celebrate the positive side of the community: its creativity, its energy, its passion for the arts and for sport. The Féile was, and is, aimed at providing events and entertainment at a price that the majority of the community could afford.
In August 1988 the first festival opened with a relatively humble parade of floats and bands and GAA clubs walking in their club regalia to an open-air party in Dunville Park. Street parties were organised throughout the west of the city. Door-to-door collections were made to fund day trips to the seaside for pensioners and outings for young people. Community Relations Organisation</ref>
Féile an Phobail has garnered resounding praise and has grown to one of the largest community festivals in Europe. The carnival parade routinely brings together over 20,000 participants for a colourful, musical procession with specially-designed floats representing a chosen theme, dancers and children in costume and face-masks.
It has grown from a one-week festival to a year-round programme with many events. It established the first ever children's festival on the island of Ireland, the Draíocht Children's Arts Festival, with activities ranging from sports to multi-cultural and educational events through both Irish and English. In 2003 alone, 6000 children and young people participated in Draíocht events.An Phoblacht - Draíocht</ref>
The festival also has its own radio station, Féile FM. The station initially broadcast across Belfast for two one-month periods in the spring and summer, during which young volunteers are professionally trained in media and management skills for free. In 2007 the radio was successful in securing a full time licence, and now broadcasts 7 days a week, throughout Belfast. Some of trainees have gone on to find employment in the local media, including UTV, BBC Northern Ireland and The Irish News in Belfast.<ref name="FeileFM">Féile FM
In May 2009, Féile an Phobail launched Belfast's first comedy festival, Laughs at the Bank.
Féile an Phobail runs numerous festivals throughout the year. Among the festivals are:
- August Féile - oldest project. Among Europe's largest community festivals, runs in August
- Féile an Earraigh - Springtime Irish traditional music festival
- Draíocht - annual children's festival beginning in mid-October
- Stand up in the West - monthly comedy night in Belfast's Western Bar, no longer running
- Laughs at the Bank - Belfast's first comedy festival. Launched May 2009
Féile an Phobail has rostered national and international acts to perform with local musicians, catering for all tastes in dancing and music: from traditional to world music and Popular music. Notable acts include the Altan, Brian Kennedy, Mary Black, the Afro-Cuban All Stars, the Harlem Gospel Choir, Westlife and Status Quo.
many local acts have played the festival including:
- Tin Pot Operation
- The Vals
- Under Stars and Gutters
- Colenso Parade
- Panama Kings
- A Plastic Rose
Local poets and writers have read their works on the same podium as renowned authors such as Patrick Mc Cabe, Roddy Doyle and Evelyn Conlon. The festival has hosted the works of Ireland's leading playwrights and theatre companies, and has been the launching pad for world premiers, such as Frank McGuinness's Someone Who'll Watch Over Me and Marie Jones' A Night in November by Dubbeljoint Productions.
The discussion and debates have included talks by world-class journalists and documentary makers including Robert Fisk (The Independent), Michael Moore (Oscar Winner) and have witnessed Gregory Campbell (Democratic Unionist Party) on the same panel as Alex Maskey (Sinn Féin) at the annual West Belfast Talks Back.