02 February 2006

Hammer blow as Féile is set to lose...


• West Belfast Talks Back
• The Party in the Park
• Carnival Parade
• Scribes at the Rock

by Ciara McGuigan

A dark cloud of uncertainty hangs over the future of Féile an Phobail today with the shock news that two government departments are to call a halt to funding of the long-running festival.

The Department of Social Development (DSD) and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) provided over £140,000 worth of funding for the festival last year and had, until last month, made assurances that funding would be available for key posts.

Despite these assurances, however, decisions taken by government departments in recent days have resulted in five key job losses within the organisation.

This devastating blow to the already tightly-run ship threatens to jeopardise many of the festival’s biggest and most popular events which have been instrumental in the widespread success of the local event.

Amongst those events likely to be scrapped as a result of the funding crisis are Scribes at the Rock, the Féile Carnival Parade, Féile Party in the Park, West Belfast Talks Back and all the local street festivals.

“The posts which have been lost are key to the success of the organisation and deal with events that focus on our entire community programme,” said Féile an Phobail Director, Sean Paul O’Hare.

“As a result of this funding crisis, all the work undertaken by Féile an Phobail which deals with young people is now under threat. The creation of vibrant debates and discussions, Féile training – which provides the opportunity for so many to gain employment and experience in the workings of a successful festival – and many of our key literary events which have become renowned across Belfast and beyond look likely to be axed,” added Sean Paul.

Deeply angered by “misleading assurances” made by government ministers with responsibility for social and cultural development in the North of Ireland, the Féile Director added: “Féile an Phobail were given assurances by an official representing the minister responsible for these departments that adequate funding would be provided to ensure that these posts would be safe-guarded. This turnaround over funding, however, is a clear policy of discrimination against the people of West Belfast.

“As an organisation involved in the economic regeneration of West Belfast we feel that this is a massive injustice for the people of the area and for those who have worked so hard in developing this festival over the years.”

In 2000, an independent study revealed that £3.3m was spent in Belfast during Féile, proving that the festival is an asset to the city, generating employment and enhancing tourism for the city as a whole.

Féile an Phobail, now in its 19th year, has worked tirelessly in the field of conflict resolution and has been one of the leading organisations in creating positive relations for all within the city.

The Féile annual programme promotes Belfast through community arts as a vibrant, energetic and welcoming city.

“Féile an Phobail is one of the biggest festival in the North and is Ireland’s largest community festival, but continues to receive little or no recognition from the government departments responsible for supporting it,” added Sean Paul.

A spokesperson for both the DSD and DCAL said that, as yet, there has been no allocation of funds for the 2006 event before adding: “The new festival funding arrangements are being developed at present and the expected announcement will be made shortly. The new arrangements will apply from April 2006.”

Journalist:: Ciara McGuigan

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