Feis Doire Cholmcille is city’s cultural pinnacle

Derry City and Strabane Councillors have voted unanimously to work with the committee of Feis Doire Cholmcille to assist and support them as they mark their centenary.

Bringing the motion forward Aontú Councillor Emmet Doyle said: “The Feis Doire Cholmcille has been a cultural staple throughout the last 100 years in this city. Going back to Tuesday, June 27 to Friday, June 30, 1922, the first Feis which was organised in conjunction with the Gaelic League.

“It is steeped in history, indeed on the third day of the first competition around 700 participants took part.

“In the late 1990s there were around 6,000 participants and in recent years, whilst it is still a very important event that takes place in the city, it has been subject to a lot of the turmoil that is happening in our society at present, not least the pandemic.

The team from McLaughlin School, Derry, winners of the Nellie Sweeney Cup in the Any Figure Dance (under 15) competition at Feis Doire Colmcille. At front, from left, are Helena Ferry, Maria Boyd, Donna Owens and Sandra Hyndman. At back are Mairead Coyle, Fiona Kelly,Pauline Temple and Giovanna McKinney. Taken in 1977

“The committee that runs Feis is made up of volunteers, they put so much time and effort into this event, they are real cultural ambassadors when it comes to gaelic culture in this city and district.

“Over the hundred years of Feis Doire Cholmcille some of the best talent of this city and across the island have come through the competitions of the Feis. It is just as important to those who value gaelic culture as those who value the Jazz Festival, as Halloween, as St Patrick’s Day and should be treated as such.

“The fact that we haven’t necessarily engaged as council on the programme over the last number of years is something that is of deep regret to me and something I want to see changed.”

DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock agreed the Feis is ‘an institution within this city’, adding: “Many young people have not only taken their first step to fame and stardom, they have developed confidence and self esteem which has stood them in good stead throughout their lives.

Ten-year-old Derry girl Rosa O’Reilly, from the McGinley School of Music and Drama, is the 2017 Feis Dhoire Cholmcille Overall Award winner having picked up an impressive number of of first, second and third places in this yeas competition. Rosa took first place in the Junior Any Song, first place in English Song, first place in Piano Trio along with the Eileen Coyle Cup for Overall Vocals. She took second place in Instrumental Ensemble, Piano Interpretation, Piano Duet, Irish Song and Violin. Rosa was also awarded third place in Piano Own Choice, Girls Verse an Original poetry. DER1717GS001

“This is the centenary year of the organisation and we believe all cultural centenaries are remarkable achievements to be celebrated by whatever section of the community so desires. It is only right we respect the distinguished history associated with the Feis. 

“I expect that the voluntary committee with years of experience will be working away on the financial aspects in what are for everybody difficult financial times. 

“Staying within our own processes I am happy that Council would promote and offer some form of assistance in kind.”

Supporting the motion, Sinn Fein Councillor Emma McGinley said: “A few of us will have our own memories of taking part in the Feis growing up. 

“We have no doubt the centenary should be celebrated and I believe the Feis committee have an application submitted for the council’s Community Festivals Fund and we wish them the best of luck with that application.”

SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell spoke of the impact that Feis Doire Cholmcille has had on the city.

He said: “Literally hundreds of thousands of children and young people have performed and competed in the Feis over the years and every one of our renowned cultural exports has cut their teeth and learned their trade on the stages of St Columb’s Hall, the Guildhall and more lately the Millennium Forum and Playhouse.

“I understand the organising committee have exciting plans so it’s right and proper this council supports the Feis. The Feis needs our support and the Feis deserves our support.”

All parties gave their backing to the motion and were in agreement that council should ‘do what we can to ensure the 100th anniversary event is a massive success.”

By Gillian Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter