First of all an apology to Gaelic speakers. I am blogging from the ipad and have not yet mastered the “fada” (accent marks) and apologies if there are any spelling errors.
An Feile an Phobail…the Peoples Festival, the largest Arts Festival “in these islands”? Certainly the largest politically correct festival…it is 25 years this year.
Actually I am not certain that is correct. The Festival has its roots in the annual anti-internment rallies which took place in the years after August 1971 when it was almost inevitable that violence and deaths would occur. There would …at best…be self-inflicted nihilistic violence on the Falls Road.
Certainly there were attempts to turn that into something constructive.
I remember the Wolfe Tones in concert at St Thomas’ School and I recall being “coerced” by a Catholic priest from Sunderland into playing in a football match at St Aidans. That was about 1974.
Perhaps An Feile 1988-2013 ..An Feile 25 reflects “official” status.
But it does tend to airbrush out earlier efforts.
For anyone like myself trying to persuade American friends to visit Belfast, then mid July to mid August is ideal.
We can begin our Tour with the Twelfth and being equally repulsed and amused by the Orange Order. The discerning visitor can take in the “summer school” at QUB School of Irish Studies…three weeks of listening to letsgetalongerism for £1500 (with accomodation) followed by my nightly debunking of al that was said.
And then…an Feile….West Belfast at its best. MY West Belfast. MY Falls Road. “Right On” politically correct debates, exhibitions, music, comedy….my annual ration of culture and cupan tae agus ceapaire (tea and a sandwich) at An Culturlann.
Of course there have always been accusations that An Feile was a Provo Festival. Indeed Sinn Fein always denied it. And An Feiles credibility was enhanced when it was run by a former international tennis player from County Mayo….and then Caitriona Ruane joined Sinn Fein and became Minister for Education and she is still a MLA at Stormont.
I looked on that…not as evidence of a “Provo Front” but rather as evidence of Sinn Fein expanding its membership.
Yet…yesterday An Feile 2013 was launched at Conway Mill. And as I looked for promotional material to post on Facebook as an appetiser for my American friends, I found a clip of the launch on You Tube.
It is slightly uncomfortable viewing. It is of course produced by “Sinn Fein TV” and features speeches and sound bites from among others …Mairtin O’ Muilleoir, Paul Maskey MP, Gerry Adams TD, Caral Ni Chuilin MLA…Other Sinn Fein figures including former MEP Bairbre de Brun were prominent in the audience. Danny Morrison is the Director of An Feile.
Mairtin is Mayor of Belfast and of course he is entitled to be there. Indeed he has a DUTY to be there. And that Chain of Office lends a degree of credibility.
Caral is Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure. She has a duty to be there.
Paul is MP for West Belfast. Duty.
Gerry Adams is TD for Louth and er…..well he is TD for Louth.
It WAS of course Sinn Fein TV. But I did not catch sight of any SDLP people. Where any invited? With two of the ten council seats in West Belfast, surely the councillors were invited to the launch. Surely the SDLP MLA on the Culture, Arts, Leisure Committee was invited.
But there was the uncomfortable feeling that having spent far too long denying POLITICAL involvement in An Feile, SF was happily embracing the notion that their fingerprints were all over it.
The “flagship” event of An Feile is “Belfast Talks Back”, a panel discussion and apparently this year it has a stellar line up of “Sinn Fein and DUP …and politicians from other parties” Would that include SDLP?
Parity of Esteem in Norn Iron context. But NOT in a West Belfast context.
Is it about marginalising SDLP?
The SDLP will actually be hosting an event at An Feile this year. I am not entirely sure whether SDLP is asserting itself (good) or marginalising itself (bad). The event will be about “Victims and Reconciliation”. At this point, I dont feel that I can talk about the membership of the panel…but it is uncomfortably unbalanced.