Action packed Féile kicks off today

The F�ile 2011 booklet.
The F�ile 2011 booklet.

The festival is now in its 18th year and co-ordinator, Gareth Stewart says is the most diverse programme to date.

This year’s events will include open air concerts, political talks, plays, day trips, sporting competitions, exhibitions, and a range of other activities.

Most of the events will take place in or around the Gasyard Centre although other venues will also be used, including Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, St Augustine’s Church Hall, and First Derry Presbyterian Church.

“We aim to have something for everyone and that is what we have with this year’s programme,” Mr Stewart said. “There will be events to suit everyone in the community from the youngest to the oldest. That’s the whole idea of Féile. With such a range of events there is bound to be something to interest everyone. Not everyone will be interested in the political events or the music events but they will be able to find something else to interest them,” he explained.

He said that one of the events he is most looking forward to is the open air concert which will be held at the Gasyard on August 13th. “We have two major open-air concerts this year but I’m particularly looking foward to the ‘Sound of Free Derry’ concert on August 13th. Derry does not have a music festical which specifically showcases all the wonderful local talent the city has to offer. There is vibrant music scene in Derry with many excellent bands and many of them never get the opportunity to play a big gig in their own town. It is free and it gives local bands a chance to play on the big stage.

“On the following Monday we will have the Féile finale concert with a very strong line-up including Cashier No. 9, one of the best bands in Ireland, and the Rubber Bandits who will no doubt be very entertaining.

“As well as that we have the Teenage Kicks music festival for under 18s which will be held in Guildhall Square. It’s great that this event is right in the heart of the city centre and it gives young people a chance to play their music right in the centre of the city. At times young people can get a bad press but this is a chance for young people to showcase their talent and make a contribution to the musical life of the city. Féile is the only citywide festival and this event right in the heart of the city centre in Guildhall Square underlines that,” he said.

The Féile co-ordinator also said this year’s political events are likley to be popular. “The political events always attract a big crowd and there has already been a lot of interest in this year’s events. We have big names like Fintan O’Toole and Tim Pat Coogan coming this year and they should both ber very interesting. Fintan O’Toole will be looking at modern Ireland and where we are going and the events that brought us to where we are today. Tim Pat Coogan will be talking about the state of Irish republicanism and the way forward over the next few years coming up to the centenary of the Easter Rising.

“Other events will look at important event from the past such as the hunger strikes and the introduction of internment as well as looking at things that are going on at the minute such as the situation in Maghaberry at present.

“That is the beauty of Féile. It is not just about fundays. It asks the difficult questions and does not shy away from controversial issues. If you look at the history of Féile it has always done that . We’ve had people like George Galloway and Tony Benn here over the years and they have never minced their words,” he said.

Mr Stewart also said the ethos of the Féile is about uniting the community. “We have events for all ages, young and old, but we also have events designed to bring younger and older poeple together. We also have events which aim to get people engaging with people who may be marginalised in our community, such as people battling alcoholism, in order to promote a better understanding,” he said.

As well as entertainment events, the co-ordinator also said this year’s festival will include a range of activities to promote a healthy lifestyle. “We work closely with the Old Library Trust and the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum and we have put together a whole programme of healthy activities from awareness events to sporting activities to suit all levels of fitness, “ he explained.

Mr Stewart said the Féile is ultimately a community festival. “Everything about the Féile revolves around the community. It is the people who make it what it is and we take our lead from them. It is a community festival and the people get involved and make it their own,” he said.