Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Year of firsts for the 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 © please by-line 16-8-13
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 © please by-line 16-8-13
©/Lorcan Doherty Photography - 14h August 2013. 

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann - Doire '13.

Six years-old Bronagh Carlin dances as cousins Sinead Carlin (10), Niamh Carlin (14), Corrine Gorman (15) and Aoibheann Carlin (14), members of the Derry Comhaltas performing on steps at the Guildhall.

Photo Lorcan Doherty Photography
©/Lorcan Doherty Photography - 14h August 2013. Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann - Doire '13. Six years-old Bronagh Carlin dances as cousins Sinead Carlin (10), Niamh Carlin (14), Corrine Gorman (15) and Aoibheann Carlin (14), members of the Derry Comhaltas performing on steps at the Guildhall. Photo Lorcan Doherty Photography
Flags flying on Strand Road to celebrate the Fleadh.
Flags flying on Strand Road to celebrate the Fleadh.

The man who championed an All-Ireland Fleadh coming to Northern Ireland said it has "raised the bar to new heights" with Londonderry now well-placed to host the massive musical event again.

The strong representation of unionist culture and the appearance of Irish President Michael D Higgins at the launch have also set new standards for organising body Comhaltas, its director has said.

Two unique events – Jonathan Burgess' play The Pride, about life as a member of a loyalist flute band, and an evensong in St Columb's Church of Ireland Cathedral – were both filled to capacity on Monday night.

All this bodes well for future applications to host the fleadh by the Derry Comhaltas, according to the organisation's director-general, Labhras O'Murchu.

"This has certainly been a year of firsts for the fleadh," he said. "As well as the first time it has come to Northern Ireland, it is also the first time any President of Ireland has attended the launch and the first time there has been such a diverse cultural programme and the fleadh is the better for it.

"We have been delighted with the participation of the loyalist bands and we were all at The Pride, which we could all identify with – the love of the music and keeping traditions alive."

Mr O'Murchu said the massive Derry welcome was another first.

"I have never experienced numbers like it for the opening of a fleadh," he said. "Standing on the stage in the Guildhall on Sunday there was such a feeling of goodwill and joy it was almost palpable. I think right from the start people realised the historic aspect to this year and took ownership and made it a celebration."

The fleadh traditionally brings huge economic benefits to the host town or city, with crowds of up to 300,000 not uncommon. It is expected to generate around £40m for the north west economy.

This has already led some people to discuss the possibility of a return of the fleadh to Derry, an idea that Mr O'Murchu endorsed wholeheartedly.

"I championed the Derry application because for a long time I wanted the fleadh to be held in Northern Ireland as a thank you for the huge numbers who travel to the fleadh every year from here, and for keeping the traditions as strong as anywhere else. So why should it not come to Northern Ireland?" he said.

"Derry has made such a success of this year that they would be a strong contender any other year. They have raised the bar to new heights that it would be hard for others to achieve.

"Their programme has been totally different from any other, but their innovations have now to be considered by others in their applications.

"I feel humbled and totally vindicated by the support I gave the Derry branch and by the courtesy, welcome and warmth from all – and I mean all – the people of Derry."

what's on today

1pm Guildhall

Across the Atlantic: A first class line-up of North American acts, including Liz Carroll, accompanied by Sean Og Graham and Trevor Hutchinson.

3.30pm Guildhall

Seisiun Mor Amhrain na hEigse: An outdoor spectacle where all Scoil Eigse pupils perform together en masse, showcasing the skills and talents they have learned throughout the week of the All-Ireland Fleadh.

8pm Craft Village

FleadhLive at the live club stage in the heart of the city centre, with some of the finest acts who have arrived for the Fleadh Cheoil.

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