29 July 2005

200,000 set for Féile fun

Irelandclick.com

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Féile an Phobail website

Féile fever is sweeping West Belfast as the city prepares for the 18th annual community festival.

Final preparations are being made ahead of the ten-day event which will see thousands descend on the West to take part in the festivities which kick off tomorrow (Friday).

Speaking to the Andersonstown News yesterday, Féile Marketing Officer Kelly Loughran said that over the ten days more than 200,000 people are expected to attend the breathtaking array of events during the festival.

“This month alone, the Féile website has received 197,626 hits from countries all over the world. Morocco, Romania and Poland are just a few of the far-flung countries which feature on the list. A staggering 76,500 Americans have logged on this month alone which is the greatest number, followed closely by France, Australia, the Netherlands and, of course, Ireland.

“There is no doubt that the popularity of the festival is growing and we are striving to increase these figures every year," she added.

Sinn Féin's Paul Maskey, who works as a Tourism Development Coordinator with the West Belfast tourist office Fáilte Féirste Thiar (FFT), said the office has been inundated with queries about to the festival.

“We provide information and services about West Belfast to the growing number of tourists who flock to the area every year, but this year has been crazy," he said.

“The festival is definitely becoming more internationalised, we've had groups of Palestinians and Basques in asking about the festival. There are also a number of journalists from Dublin inquiring and looking for Féile programmes. It is actually quite frightening, this year has to be the busiest to date."

Marnie O'Doherty, who runs O'Doherty's Bed & Breakfast on the Andersonstown Road, told the Andersonstown News that she is fully booked over the festival period.

“At the minute I have four Norwegians and one German staying at the B&B. Next week I have bookings for Welsh and English people, they are all here for the festival and there is an air of excitement in the house as we wait for the festival to kick off," she said.

“Only last week, there were two Dutch people staying.

“I had left the Féile programme in all the rooms and this couple were completely enthralled by Féile and have promised to return next year for the event," added Marnie who has been turning away up to four people per night of late.

Journalist:: Francesca Ryan


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BBC

City rocks during people's festival

The streets of west Belfast will be rocking during the course of the next week as the annual festival gets into full swing.

The Féile an Phobail (The People's Festival) began 18 years ago during the Troubles and was seen as an opportunity to portray Belfast in a more positive light.

As usual it features a mixture of local and international music acts, political tours, walks and talks, as well as hundreds of locally organised events.

The festivities begin on Friday night with the first music at the giants foot gathering, in Beechmount Leisure Centre, where Irish rockers Hothouse Flowers will entertain a packed house.

Over the weekend, dozens of events, plays and concerts will culminate in the lively carnival parade, which leaves Conway Street at 1300 BST on Sunday, finishing at MacRory Park on the Whiterock Road.

Major acts over the week include Scottish rockers The Proclaimers, Dublin balladeer Damien Dempsey and the Afro-Celts Sound System.

Sean Paul O'Hare, director of Feile an Phobail, said the festival started in 1988 when there was a lot of trouble on the streets of Belfast.

"Belfast at that time had a very negative image. Every year on the anniversary of internment we had a lot of trouble on our streets, conflict between the British Army and our young people," he said.

"It was felt by Gerry Adams and our community leaders that we needed to change the image of west Belfast and we needed a clear role for our young people and what we created then was the west Belfast festival, Feile an Phobail.

"Féile an Phobail is about getting people together, to come in and enjoy the talent."

In light of the recent IRA statement announcing an end to its armed campaign, Mr O'Hare said there would also be events at the festival where recent political developments would be discussed.

One of the most popular events during the week is West Belfast Talks Back, when a panel of unionist and nationalist politicians get a chance to discuss their views with an always lively audience.

This year's panel for the discussion, which is taking place on 3 August, will be DUP Assembly member Arlene Foster, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey, Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy and SDLP Assembly member Dolores Kelly.

The festival begins on 29 July and runs until 7 August.


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