NW to host the ‘ultimate fiddle fleadh’ next year

Dancer Michelle Curran and fiddler Maggie Maguire, music students at University of Ulster Magee, join three of the local NAFCo organisers in celebrating the announcement that the five-day North Atlantic Fiddle Convention will held in the North West in 2012. They are, left to right, Liz Doherty, Lecturer in Traditional Music, University of Ulster, Angela McLaughlin, Music Development Manager, Donegal VEC, Music Education Partnership, and Traolach O Fionnain, Arts Officer, Donegal County Council. (Lorcan Doherty Photography]
Dancer Michelle Curran and fiddler Maggie Maguire, music students at University of Ulster Magee, join three of the local NAFCo organisers in celebrating the announcement that the five-day North Atlantic Fiddle Convention will held in the North West in 2012. They are, left to right, Liz Doherty, Lecturer in Traditional Music, University of Ulster, Angela McLaughlin, Music Development Manager, Donegal VEC, Music Education Partnership, and Traolach O Fionnain, Arts Officer, Donegal County Council. (Lorcan Doherty Photography]

A huge international folk and dance festival - which will attract up to 10,000 visitors to the region - is coming to the North West next year.

Hundreds of musicians and dancers, and several thousand friends and followers, will converge on Derry and Donegal next summer for the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (NAFCo).

The event will take place between June 27 and July 1, 2012.

Much of the action will take place at Magee campus of the University of Ulster and at various venues around the city and in Donegal.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 visitors are expected to flood in and practically every viable performance space will be utilised. It could be worth about £1.5 million to the local economy.

It will be NAFCo’s first time on the island of Ireland. As well as generating a tourism bonaza, the convention could also provide an impressive curtain-raiser to traditional music elements of Derry’s City of Culture year in 2013.

University of Ulster traditional music lecturer Dr Liz Doherty, who is convenor of the local NAFCo steering committee, says: “This is a massive statement of faith by experienced international musicians and researchers not simply in the traditions of the North West but also in our ability to host such a huge multi-faceted event.”

Harnessing the region’s rich fiddle and dance traditions, and keen to enhance the profile of the traditional music programme at Magee’s School of Creative Arts, Dr Doherty formulated and tabled the successful bid to NAFCo’s international organisers.

“I am just back from playing at a big traditional music fest in Montreal and already people were talking about next year’s fiddle convention here and asking all about it,” she said. “They’re really excited and we’ll all be using the next few months to spread the word event further. It’ll be the ultimate fiddle fleadh.”

NAFCo draws participants from the US and Canadian east seaboard, Scandinavia, Britain and Ireland, Brittany and other Atlantic coastal regions that celebrate a heritage of fiddle and dance.

The Dance Research Forum of Ireland, which comprises teachers, researchers, academics and musicians, has also decided to hold its bi-annual conference here in conjunction with NAFCo. The DRFI presence will create even more colour and diversity, with not just Irish and Scottish dance but also other contemporary modes.

The provisional programme envisages two major conferences, 13 lunchtime or evening concerts, a NAFCo Youth Camp, talks, masterclasses and workshops, two ceilidhs, exhibitions, a fiddle fair and 40 “gig rig” performances – and much, much more.

“The ‘joyous celebration and purposeful inquiry’ highlighted in the Derry City of Culture Bid document could almost have been written with NAFCo in mind,” Dr Doherty says

“It completely sums up what this event is all about: celebrating through performances and participatory events the music and dance of the wider North Atlantic region and our diaspora and underpinning this with academic rigour, discussion and debate.”

The NAFCo steering committee co-ordinating the event on both sides of the border are Micheál Ó Fearraigh, Sean Hanigan, Angela McLaughlin, Martin McGinley, Professor Frank Lyons, of Magee, and Michael Gallanagh.

Dr Liz Doherty is well known on both sides of the Atlantic as a performance fiddler and recording artist, researcher of musical heritage and traditional arts consultant.

For further information on NAFCO 2012 see www.nafco2012.com