Belfast Telegraph

Hop aboard for some Feile fun

By Emily Moulton

They were once the lifeline of west Belfast, providing the only transport system for the community during the Troubles.

So it was fitting that the West Belfast Taxi Association depot provided the backdrop for the launch of this year’s Feile an Phobail.

And yesterday the King Street headquarters was awash with members of the arts community, politicians and the odd local character.

Since its humble beginnings in 1988, Feile an Phobail has always enjoyed strong local support. That support has grown steadily and now the event is considered one of the biggest tourist draws of the year.

Last year more than 100,000 people flocked to west Belfast to catch one of the many shows during the 10-day festival.

It was their biggest turnout since they began and it is a figure organisers are hoping to beat in 2010.

Festival director Sean Paul O’Hare explained the team behind this year’s programme have worked extremely hard to bring what they believe is an eclectic mix of music, theatre, visual arts and comedy shows to west Belfast.

He said it was important the festival kept with tradition by promoting local talent but also include a flavour of international acts to show its diversity.

Among the big attractions this year is singer-songwriter Damien Dempsey, comedian Lenny Henry and the St Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra.

“This is our biggest programme to date,” Mr O’Hare said. “We have a wide range of events throughout the 10 days as well as a few firsts.

“We have the new Youth Fringe Festival and we have five nights of fantastic music in the Bank Square marquee.

“I certainly think this year’s programme is of the highest quality.

“We have been so delighted with the support we have had over the years from the community. After all, that is how we started as a small community event.”

According to Howard Hastings, managing director of Hastings Hotels and member of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the Feile is has put Northern Ireland on the tourist ‘map’ and thanked people for their support.

“We have received great support from both the public and private sector, we could not exist without it and we hope it continues, “ he said.

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