I recently saw the following question on a friends facebook page and thought that I would write my answer on my blog.
Is the Féile an Phobail festival really the ‘festival of the people’ and a true alternative to bonfires?
Or has our communities been left behind for a business adventure?
I fully support the ethos of the féile and why it was set up. The féile was set up as an alternative to the anti-internment bonfires. Over the years the bonfires attracted more and more anti-social elements and as an alternative the féile was established.
Without a doubt the féile has grown from strength to strength every year. It has provided the community with affordable entertainment, classes, discussions, debates, talks, tours and various other activities.
As it has grown it also has appeared to become a lot more commercialised and a lot less community orientated. I have to admit the festival atmosphere in the Falls park does look great but for those of us that cant afford to pay to go to these big acts the atmosphere that we view goes as far as the front gates. I know that these big acts do come a lot cheaper than they normally would go on sale which is a good thing but regardless of this the average punter in West Belfast wont be able to afford these luxuries as people from all over the place come flocking into the West to go to concerts at a cheaper rate.
I think the féile should also be a lot more radical and more focused on highlighting the political issues of the past, present and used to educate, mobilise and discuss methods for the future.
Today the féile has become a tool for one political party to push its own agenda. Who imagined that when a group took a progressive decision to organise a community festival that would strive every year that one day it would be sponsored by the same British police force who was not only interning people back in the 1970s but who are interning Republicans ever since! Today’s organisers are happy to invite representatives of the PSNI on to panels or to events but not other members of the community who share a different political outlook to the status quo. Why do they insist on helping the Brits with their normalisation strategy?
Although I have outlined several criticisms that I have of the féile I still believe that it is very progressive and very beneficial in our poverty stricken community. It does bring to the surface our proud community spirit and traditions and does provide very interesting activities that are not widely available throughout the year. I do not think that it is a private business adventure but they need to get rid of the big acts that local people cant afford, we are West Belfast not Glasdonbury! They also need to get rid of the political organisation that will eventual turn it into a business adventure.
The bonfires today are worse than ever. They are ran by thugs, criminals, hoods, drug dealers and attract all the anti-social elements within our community. These are nothing about remembering internment. The lower Falls bonfire is a prime example of the anti-social nature of today’s bonfires. Every year locals are intimidated, cars are stole, people get off their heads on drugs and people get beat up. There is nothing good about what is happening at these things and if they are going to do it next year they might as well do it on the 12th of July. The only political thing about these bonfires is that it is full of sectarianism and hatred and that is not reflective of our community and especially principled Republicanism. I am glad to hear that RNU is trying to make some ground and organise a forum in the Lower Falls to tackle these anti-social elements.
Tomorrow thousands of Republicans will march from Ardoyne to the Busy Bee in West Belfast. This is the best way in recent years that internment has been highlighted on such a big scale. Not only is it highlighting the plight of Republican prisoners currently incarcerated but it is mobilising thousands of people and taking them to the streets.
The apologists in Stormont will be nowhere to be seen tomorrow as they are content with cosying up to those who are interning fellow Irishmen.
Maghaberry remains a hell hole. Ten men died in 1981 to be granted political status. Sinn Fein are happy to use the Hunger Strikers for political motives but forget that Republicans are still denied the status that the Hunger Stikers died for.
Republicans are still being dragged from their homes, beat, strip searched, interned for lengthy periods or charged and convicted on trumped up charges. The silence is deafening but not for long as this plight is being highlighted more and more every day. The day will come when those in Stormont will become irrelevant as we continue on our journey anyway.