Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

300,000 enjoy All-Ireland Fleadh

Friday Fleadh Cheoil scenes on the streets. Derry hosts Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann, the first time in the traditional music festival's history that it has travelled to the North of Ireland.  Picture Margaret McLaughlin
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Around 300,000 people are estimated to have visited Londonderry for the All-Ireland Fleadh, organisers have said.

The event, which will be brought to a close with a spectacular closing ceremony at Ebrington Square on Sunday night, is the first time the world's biggest celebration of Irish culture has been held north of the border.

Fleadh chairperson Eibhlin Ni Dhochartaigh said it had been an unbelievable experience for the the city. She said: "The people of Derry have really taken the Fleadh to heart. It has been quite emotional to see the sense of pride people have in our city."

The closing party which starts at 7pm will include an aerial spectacular with musicians and dancers from Fidget Feet suspended in the air above Ebrington Square.

The winners of the senior ceili band competition will also take to the stage before a performance of a specially commissioned piece of music to hand the Fleadh over to next year's hosts, Sligo.

Ms Ni Dhochartaigh added: "It's hard to believe that the week is almost over and while we will be sad to bid farewell to the Fleadh we have a fitting send-off planned. The Fleadh may be leaving Derry but is leaving behind a renewed appreciation of our music and culture. We have always known that Derry is a city of song but now the whole world knows it too.

"Over the last week millions of people across the world had the chance to share this wonderful experience with us through Fleadh Live and the feedback from that has been phenomenal ."

The huge trad fest has also generated around £40 million for the economy in the north west. The diverse programme of events included participation from the Police Service of Northern Ireland pipe band as well as Jonathan Burgess' play The Pride about a loyalist band.

Around 20,000 musicians descended on Derry to compete in what was described as the "Olympics of traditional music" and there also were performances from Cara Dillon, Dervish and Liam O'Flynn.

Derry was a late confirmation on the shortlist for the 2013 Fleadh after the Ulster Council of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann reversed its decision not to support the bid following two bomb attacks in the city in 2011. It was opened a week ago by Irish president Michael D Higgins - the first time any Irish president has attended.

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