Féile an Phobail - Community Pride and Power.
In our continuing series of letters from Ireland. Ciarán Quinn, Sinn Féin Representative for North America, writes about a central fixture in his Irish summer. Féile an Phobail (The West Belfast Community Festival).
Community Pride and Power
A Letter From Ireland
It's summer in Ireland and it’s raining. That is the secret to why Ireland is so green and why we have so many pubs.
It also means the start of Féile an Phobail (West Belfast Festival). Being a proud son of West Belfast I always make it home at some time to take in the Féile debates, exhibitions, and gigs. It is made easier again this year with many of the events taking place online.
The Féile was started by Gerry Adams and groups of community leaders in 1988. At the time the West Belfast Community was described as “savages” and “terrorists”. It was my family, my friends and my home.
The Féile was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the introduction of internment (imprisonment without trial from 9th August 1971 – December 1975).
This Anniversary was marked by bonfires and confrontations with the police and British Army. Up until the Féile began, the start of August was a time of riots, burning buses, and young people shot by plastic bullets.
Gerry and the Féile committee set out to challenge the establishments' view of our community. To channel the negative energy into a celebration of community, resistance, and identity.
I attend my first Féile event a gig in 1988 and the following years volunteered as an organizer. The Féile grew year on year.
After a few years, we applied for support to develop the project. Funding was refused and instead offered to a unionist area. We were told at the time we are doing okay without any support!!!
West Belfast like the rest of the North has changed. August is now a time of community celebration.
Féile was and remains a victory of community pride and power over state prejudice and discrimination. The true character of West Belfast won out. An open, inclusive, and proud community.
Why not join in and see what’s happening check out Féile an Phobail.
See ya at the Féile.