Féile…West Belfast Festival

So Féile starts in two weeks. The West Belfast Festival.

On 9th August 1971, Internment Without Trial was introduced. That night, the Ballymurphy Massacre took place. For some years afterwards, the anniversary was marked by often intense rioting in West Belfast. The Festival has its origins in trying to turn the anniversary into something more positive. It is my recollection that the first year (mid 1970s) featured a Football (Soccer) Tournament. I myself played in that Tournament.

For some years, I defended Féile against accusations that it was a “Provo” event. Previous Directors of the Festival have included Caitriona Ruane (current Sinn Féin MLA for South Down) and even more recently, Danny Morrison a former Sinn Féin MLA and their former Senior Press Officer).

I attended part of the Launch last Thursday and there were a lot of Sinn Féin worthies in attendance. No great surprise. The current Westminster MP is a Sinn Féin member, Sinn Féin hold five of thesix Assembly seats in West Belfast (SDLP hold the sixth) and May’s Council Elections confirmed that the Party holds the lions share of the West Belfast seats on Belfast City Council.

West Belfast IS a Sinn Féin fiefdom. They would claim they deserve it. Certainly they have a finger in every pie and want to preserve that status. They appear to be using the Festival to further embed themselves into West Belfast life.

Féile The headline acts next month are the Kaiser Chiefs (music) and Jason Mountford the English stand up comic.

But there is a lot of good stuff….music, drama, comedy, art…most of it a bit “lefty” and some of it a bit pretentious.

For the political anorak, there is a lot of interesting stuff. The showpiece is “West Belfast Talks Back”. This is essentially a Question and Answer session, chaired by BBC journalist, Noel Thompson. The only confirmed panellist so far, is John O’Dowd, Sinn Féin Education Minister. To shw their open-ness and to celebrate Diversity, there will likely be a unionist politician, a Protestant clergyman and/or an English politician.

The “junior” version “Belfast Youth Talks Back” …confirmed panellists Stephen Corr, a SF Councillor and Anna Lo, Alliance MLA for South Belfast.

You might well say that this invalidates the point I made that Sinn Féin has a one-party state in West Belfast but lets be frank…the Alliance Party or any unionist politician is irrelevant in West Belfast. I wonder if Sinn Féin or any Committee member at Féile would be so happy giving a platform to…their only rival in West Belfast…SDLP.

Interestingly SDLP sponsored an event last year. A highly successful one on Victims. Even Danny Morrison and his hat (he has a very big hat) sat thru that ……in sullen silence.

But this year……..no SDLP event. Why not? Well on Thursday, I heard two versions. One version has it that SDLP did not submit an event for the programme. The other version has it that no political party can sponsor an event. I will make further enquiries of course.

Other interesting things…a lecture on the Wild Geese, the Irish regiments who fought in Europe, before and after the Treaty of Limerick in 1692, a Palestine Day, a lecture on Leonard Peltier…and the unveiling of a bust to Bobby Sands in the Felons Club. The man doing the honours will be Gerry Adams TD….an event, which certainly appears “party political”.

As always Amnesty International will be sponsoring an event. As always it will be a love-in between Amnesty and local journalists. In the chair will be Malachi O’Doherty. The subject will be “Human Rights and Investigative Journalism”. Quite properly, there will be reference to the horrible injustice of journalists jailed in Egypt….but wouldn’t it be nice if Malachi mentioned that Andy Coulson and other British journalists are rightly in prison for infringing the rights of others thru phone hacking.

All in all …a good ten days in prospect.


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16 Responses to Féile…West Belfast Festival

  1. Political Tourist says:

    Seems a long way from the Hamas style rally at the Busy Bee and getting chased round Andytown by the Brits firing plastic bullets at all and sundery.
    West Belfast was not a place for faint hearted at that time of year.
    “Festival”…… allow those of us of a certain age a wry smile.

  2. Glenn S says:


  3. Anon says:

    I think you mean Jason Manford, not Jason Mountford.

  4. Political Tourist says:

    The more i think of this “Interment” thread, the more i wonder why anybody lost their life.
    Strange memories of one chap who was run over by a Brit armoured car in Lower Falls, 34 years ago this August 8th or 9th.
    Wonder if the Brits in the vehicle even remember it.
    Some of them would only be in their early 50s.
    People dying, for what, so that others might listen to an English comic on the Falls Rd.
    From Interment bonfires to the Kaiser Chiefs.
    All that went before for a Nottinghill Carnival up the Falls.
    All a bit sordid really
    RIP to all those who die because of that time of year.

    • Certainly Id not want a return to the 1970s.
      but certainly I think that headline English comedians and International pop acts pander to people..
      There is something “lefty and right on” …Feile are not likely to book Roy Chubby Brown or Jim Davidson.
      There is always something very pretentious about it all….but it is an expression of Culture and its in marked contrast to Orange Culture.
      We do unfortunately have a Parity of Esteem between Self-Improvement and the nihilistic Stupidity of Orange Culture.
      Maybe a case could be made for Republicans wanting to improve the lives of people while unionists keep people in ignorance.

  5. Political Tourist says:

    Do they mention “Interment” at the Festival?
    Or is that all a bit embarrassing in 2014.
    Take it the Hamas style (black ski masks and semi automatics) rally has been replaced by the mid August Hunger-Strike event.
    Which in turn has replaced the old August 15th Hibernian tradition.
    Joe Devlin a hundred years back replaced with Gerry Adams 2014 sitting on the platform in some country GAA ground telling the faithful to keep voting.
    With a few battle re-enactment figures thrown in to woo the odd political tourist who wanders along.
    The provos even hired a helicopter one year to give the rally an authentic touch.
    You couldn’t make it up.

    • There are certainly events which will appeal to Old Sinn Fein.
      Gerry Adams will be unveiling a bust of Bobby Sands in the Felons Club.
      Theres a POW Day.
      And a few other things.
      I think the further away we get from August 1971, these events look like tokens.
      Also stuff that will interest the lefties…Palestine Day looks a good one and of course topical. And plenty for the feminists.

      • Séamus says:

        That’s ex-POW Day now.

        There’ll be an internment rally on the 10th August, going from Ardoyne to the Busybee I think, but it’s got nothing to do with Féile.

      • Yes ex-POW.
        I daresay the Bobby Sands thing at the Felons is ticket only but Id be curious about how many members might think SF are hijacking a name that is revered by both mainstream SF and dissidents.

  6. zig70 says:

    I’m very proud of the feile as a response to nats mimicking the hatefires across the way. Hats off to it. It’s not all to my taste but I’ve seen some brilliant acts of the back of it. In some ways focusing on internment lets the UUP off from facing up to other harder to explain away policies such as job discrimination and turning a blind eye to folks getting forced from areas like Rathcoole.

  7. Séamus says:

    The Communist Party are organising an event at St Mary’s as part of the Féile, but then they’re irrelevant too.

    • Yes.
      But Id like to see who is on the panel for West Belfast Talks Back.
      I have heard two versions of why SDLP is not sponsoring an event.
      1 “they didnt submit one”
      2 “political parties cant sponsor”
      As yet I have not spoken to a SDLP person “in the know”
      But bearing in mind the success of last year and the silent presence of Danny and his Big Hat, it would certainly be in SDLP interest to be there.

      I have long resisted describing Feile as a Sinn Fein front but, SF obviously have an interest in marginalising SDLP in West Belfast.
      SDLP have no interest in marginalising themselves.

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