All set for mighty Fleadh by the Feale in County Limerick

County’s premier traditional music festival is still going strong and attracting crowds after 23 years 

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

The Fleadh by the Feale committee at the launch of this year’s event which runs for five days over the May Bank Holiday weekend

The Fleadh by the Feale committee at the launch of this year’s event which runs for five days over the May Bank Holiday weekend

VINCENT Sheehy, the new chairman of Fleadh by the Feale, has the unenviable task of trying to make an excellent and highly regarded event even better.

But he is taking on the challenge with a broad smile, and one big wish.

“We are hoping for good weather, “ he said at the recent launch of the Fleadh by the Feale 2018 programme which kicks off in Abbeyfeale this Thursday and continues right throughout the May Bank Holiday weekend.

One of their aims this year, Mr Sheehy continued, is to provide even more on-the-street entertainment and things to do for the hundreds and hundreds of men, women and children who will crowd into town for the event.

In addition to the Busking Competition which takes place all along Main St and the Square, the Gig Rig in the Square will host the Athea Wrenboys and Templeglantine Comhaltas on different evenings as well as the Templeglantine Céilí Band for what promises to be a giant outdoor céilí. But this year, festival traders have been added to the mix, creating their own special excitement.

And like all good planners, the committee has alternative venues organised in the event of poor weather.

“We have a good line-up. We are hoping to make it a full, five-day festival with something for all age groups,” Mr Sheehy explained.

A Youth Trad Session which was introduced with great success last year is making a comeback as too is the Slides and Polkas session in memory of the late Dan Murphy, a founder member of Fleadh by the Feale.

But this year, committee secretary Mary O’Connor explained, they have included a special Sliabh Luachra session to take place on Saturday. Abbeyfeale is part of the great Sliabh Luachra musical tradition, she pointed out.

“We are trying to promote that music and we want to preserve it,” she said, naming four stalwarts of the tradition who will get the session off to a start: PJ Teahan, Mike Culloty, Eoin Stan O’Sullivan and Sean A’Bata. But be warned: dozens more could be playing before it ends.  

“We had record numbers at the workshops last year,” Vincent Sheehy pointed out and this year’s line-up of tutors augurs well for a similar response this year.

The highlight of Fleadh by the Feale is always the celebrity concert which this year features The Shandrum Céilí Band, which draws from a long musical tradition in Freemount. Appearing with them will be singer Elle Marie O’Dwyer, Ann Marie O’Riordan and dancers and the Coláiste Ide agus Iosef School Band.

With sessions in all the bars around town, storytelling, a poster competition and a céilí also in the programme, Fleadh by the Feale promises to be a lively weekend, finishing on a high-note with the holding of the All Ireland Bone Playing Championships, junior and senior.

“Events like this are fantastic for community spirit, they are good for business and act as a showcase for the community and town,” Maurice O’Connell, chairman of Abbeyfeale Community Council said at the launch, welcoming its continued success over the past 24 years.

“It is hard to believe it is 24 years since Fleadh by the Feale was founded,” Cllr Michael Collins, chairman of the Newcastle West Municipal District said.

“I am delighted to be here at the launch,” he added.  

Details of all events can be found on www.fleadhbythefeale.ie