New year's blowout Hundreds gather for flute festival tribute
TRADITIONAL musicians from as far away as Japan and New Zealand celebrated 16 years of the Frankie Kennedy Winter School.
While the celebrated flute player tragically died from cancer in September 1994, his legacy lives on with the annual gathering in Dunlewey, Co Donegal.
It is a week-long international festival, attracting over 100 students to the snow-covered mountains and glistening lakes of a picturesque corner of northwest Donegal to ring in the new year.
All week, students participated in 19 classes where they were taught nine traditional instruments at different levels as well as song and dance.
"It is a very family-orientated event which I think is a key to its success," explained organiser, Ann Mooney.
"Many people have been coming here for the past 13 or 14 years and they build a family holiday around it where the children and parents participate in the different classes."
But getting to the venue on the banks of Dunlewey Lake, at the bottom of a steep road, proved to be a formidable challenge for this year's delegates.
"We have had snow other years but, this year, conditions were more severe and it took a huge voluntary community effort to get people safely down the hill," she added.
Belfast-born Kennedy founded Altan with his partner, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, and as always, the week's events culminated with a rousing concert by the band last night. There was also the annual Flute Blowout, performed this year by Belfast fluters, Harry Bradley and Michael Clarkson.
"This festival continues to be a special tribute to Frankie and the flute is a big part of that. The flute blowout is our way of ending the old year. I think Frankie would approve," added Ann.