Feile an Phobail celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year with probably the most impressive line up to date, starting this Saturday and running until the 10th August. The Fun Lovin Criminals, Ardal OHanlon, Brian Kennedy, The 4 of Us, Robert Ballagh, Tom Hayden, Nuala OLoan, Gillian Slovo, Michael Patrick McDonald, Geraldine Hughes, Kathy Sinnott and Ronan Bennett are the headlining acts and speakers, though there are many, many more impressive acts, dramas and exhibitions to cater for all. Events have been organised for across west Belfast but also the City Centre, with a special marquee at Bank Street hosting a number of concerts.
The Discussions and Debates aspect of the Feile is usually very popular, and this year should be no different. Tom Hayden will be speaking on the theme of The Lessons of 68, whilst former UDA leader, Billy McQuiston and former IRA leader, Seanna Walsh, will also participate in a Questions and Answers session following the screening of a film portraying the lives of both individuals. The West Belfast Talks Back Panel this year will include Nelson McCausland, Dawn Purvis and Martin McGuinness, with Sean Crummy (voice of Folks on the Hill) providing a warm-up session for the crowd and the BBCs William Crawley chairing the discussion.
The old favourites will return as usual: Ivan Little with his My Kind of People talent show and the annual Guider Race amongst them, whilst traditional Irish Session musicians will be boarding buses on set days throughout the week to provide music for passengers.
Helicopter rides over the city have been organised from the Falls Park for the opening Day (Saturday 2nd August) and there will be a Celtic Village Experience series of workshops, story-telling and enactments culminating in a re-enactment of the Cattle Raid of Cooley. While Tom Hartley may not be available to provide his usual Cemetery Tours, a special Tour of the Jewish Burial Ground has been organised as part of the Feile.
Of course, ‘The Feile’ has developed as an outward expression of the strongly nationalist/ republican identity and ethos of its host community and of that community’s desire to move past the era of commemorative internment bonfires and develop something more positive and inclusive. There are many events and exhibitions which seek to explore, challenge and celebrate that identity, in addition to the many which are simply about providing an opportunity for children and adults alike to have fun during the week-long festival.