Gasyard ‘Festival of Fire’ wows Bogside while unapproved rival pyre passes with little incident

People watch a bonfire in the Bogside area, which is traditionally torched on August 15 to mark a Catholic feast day celebrating the assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, but in modern times the fire has become a source of contention and associated with anti-social behaviour. PRESS ASSOCIATION Niall Carson.
People watch a bonfire in the Bogside area, which is traditionally torched on August 15 to mark a Catholic feast day celebrating the assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, but in modern times the fire has become a source of contention and associated with anti-social behaviour. PRESS ASSOCIATION Niall Carson.

Hundreds of young people gathered in the Bogside on Tuesday night to enjoy the traditional August 15 bonfire celebrations, which passed off largely without incident, although an unapproved pyre near the Derry Walls was marred by the incineration of loyalist flags and minor disturbances.

The main celebrations took place in the Gasyard where fire sculptors LUXe and local young people delivered ‘Return of The Phoenix - A Festival of Fire,’ a spectacular light pageant soundtracked by trad superstars Kíla, that brought the 25th annual Gasyard Féile to a close.

A rapt audience looked on while a massive ‘Starry Plough’ was lit and hoisted high above the Bogside around 11pm.

There followed an impressive parade, which culminated in the elevation of a flaming ‘Phoenix’ above the Gasyard amphitheatre, before a traditional bonfire was accompanied by a fireworks display.

Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan, who helped organise the event, said: “It was absolutely outstanding and something we must built on to provide a family friendly positive event that our city can be proud of.”

Outside the confines of the Gasyard on the slopes below the historic Derry Walls hundreds of young people had also gathered for a bonfire that had not been approved by Derry City and Strabane District Council, and which was marred by the placement of loyalist flags and poppy wreaths.

The Israeli and United States flags and a cut-out of a police landrover were also torched, although, as had been indicated by Saoradh, a republican organisation that had been engaging with young people behind the outlawed inferno, no toxic rubber materials were burned.

Shortly, after the fire was lit missiles were thrown towards police who had gathered on the Derry Walls to observe the blaze.

However, Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said “minor disorder” was brought quickly under control before calm was restored around midnight.