It's Féile season once more a cairde ghael!!!
We have the big parade in the west of the city today for the launch of Féile an Phobail, we saw the Mayor of Béal Feirste launch Féile an Droichead on Friday and this coming Thursday sees the beginning of my own local community Féile in the Short Strand. As well as all this we have the Markets Community Festival for the south and Fleadh Cheoil Ard Eoin to look forward to over in the north of the city too!!
These festivals have all got one thing in common, and that is that they have grown out of oppressed yet proud communities. Féile an Phobail shines as an example of what community based festivals can be and is the envy of countries and communities right across Europe and indeed beyond!
The more smaller, local Féiltí are testimony to the hard work put in by community activists (often with very little financial support or assistance) to ensure that our communities enjoy the summer; enjoy their own culture and craic, yet open doors and experience new cultures and different ways of life. In this city which saw such horrendous scenes of bigotry and hatred against foreign nationals now living in Ireland, our Festivals stand out as examples of how truly multi cultural our society can be. The festivals I mentioned above strive to welcome the new Irish and let them share in our rich culture and heritage but equally we seek to learn and experience their rich cultures too. This is the type of engagement, whether it be on the Falls or in the Strand, that is often overlooked in favour of the more darker stories we sadly had to witness a few months back.
Festivals are growing all the time, the Pride Festival was only yesterday, taking place in the city centre and no doubt brought thousands onto the streets with it. As well as that, each year the Saint Patrick's Day Carnival continues to grow and grow.
Now we even see the Orange Order accepting that it too must change, not just for the rest of the world to enjoy but for people here in Ireland to experience in a positive light as well. Clearly it has far to go, and if nothing else it needs to provide an alternative to those followers of the Orange tradition and people within those same communities with a positive expression of culture, entertainment and enjoyment.
Sadly it has failed in providing that positive alternative because thus far it has been one of seclusion, sectarianism and triumphalism. The Orange Order, as much as it mightn't like it, can learn a fair bit from Republican heartlands throughout Béal Feirste, who collectively stood and up and defied the deliberate attempts by the media to brand these communities as 'ghettos' or 'controlled by godfathers'!
Nothing could be further from the truth and it didn't take millions upon millions of pounds investment, it didn't take any great amount of political intervention (granted often Republicans were the driving force with other long term community activists), it took a determination and a recognition that our community and our culture are something to be immensely proud of and should be celebrated. What better way to do that than in the age old Irish tradition of Féile?!!
Once again, as thousands upon thousands descend on Béal Feirste from gach cearn den tír, and across the globe, they too will see, know and most importantly feel that these communities are risen communities, proud of themselves, proud of their achievements, proud of where they come from and undoubtedly proud of where we are going.
Beannachtaí na Féile libh ar fad! Beir Bua!