Féile na Bealtaine to weave its magic

ACTOR Aidan Gillen certainly appeared to be under Corca Dhuibhne's spell at the launch of Féile na Bealtaine at their workshop in Baile na Buaile last week as a local Harrí Potéir wove a magic spell over the giant tea-cup in which he found himself situated.

There was much music, mirth and merriment as the Féile na Bealtaine team welcomed the world famous Irish actor - whose screen acting credits include Game of Thrones, Love/Hate, The Wire and new Irish movie Calvary (which hits cinema screens this week) to name a few. Aidan himself seemed genuinely captivated by the infectious energy and great gaisce that greeted his arrival.

Aidan, who is a regular visitor to Dingle was invited at short notice to do the launch. He was happy to fall in and help the cause and his generosity was greatly appreciated by the volunteers behind the hugely successful féile.

Now in its 20th year, Féile na Bealtaine kicks off next week on Thursday May 1 and runs until the Bank Holiday Monday, May 5.

The brainchild of the late Dr Mícheál Fanning and a dedicated team of volunteers, including Micheál's wife Noirín, son Dr Peadar and daughters Ruth and Rachel, the festival is today, stronger than ever and this year's immense programme bears testament to that fact.

An eclectic range of venues around the Dingle Peninsula will play host to over one 100 events covering all aspects of the arts; comedy, theatre, music, song, poetry, dance, children's activities, literary events, art, sculpture ... the list goes on. Even political debate is included even though it's not entirely certain that it qualifies as an art form.

Irish folk rock outfit Little Green Cars, a band described as 'teetering on the brink of greatness' have turned down all other Irish festivals this year, but in a great coup for the festival, will headline the musical line-up at Féile na Bealtaine.

Other musical highlights include a recital with Cara O'Sullivan and the Degani Ensemble, a home-coming for Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh's trad super-group Danú while the Eriú Ensemble will weave an impressively rich acoustic tapestry around Irish traditional melodies in St James' Church.

Lisa O'Neill, Seamus Begley, Eoin Duignan, Claudia Schwab, Sophie Coyle, Birds of Chicago, Early House and The Booka Brass Band are among a long list of diverse performers also scheduled to perform.

Poets and musicians will blend words and music during the festival and among the writers attending this year are novelist Gerry Stembridge, poets Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Michael Longley.

An exceptionally strong line-up of performance poets, such as London's Chill Pill collective, and the Poetry Divas will find resonance on street corners, morning pubs and even in a street-side horsebox theatre.

Clowns, acrobats, jugglers and puppetry for kids are also set to provide plenty of Féile fun and frolics.

For many the highlight of the five-day extravaganza will be the parade of street theatre which takes place on Sunday May 4. Artists, school children and craftspeople have spent a long, windy and wet winter getting ready for this parade and are currently putting the finishing touches to lovingly made props and floats.

The theme for this year's street theatre is Children's Literature - hence Harry Potter in the Mad Hatter's teacup at the launch!

For those with a social conscience and an interest in politics and current affairs, Dingle Courthouse will host a series of talks with some of Ireland's visionaries and thinkers.

Activist for the homeless Fr Peter McVerry, former Mountjoy governor John Lonergan and New Beginnings founder Ross Maguire will combine with artists and writers to try and bring sense to modern Ireland and life as it is.

Féile na Bealtaine theatre highlights include Small Plastic Wars, Mikel Murfi's Man in Woman's Shoes and After Sarah Miles with Don Wycherly (written by Castlegregory playwright Michael Hilliard Mulcahy) as well as A Practical Guide to Women which will be held in the cattle ring of Dingle Mart.

As well as showcasing the annual short-film event there will also be screenings of locally shot, Irish feature film of the year, Run & Jump throughout the festival.

Twenty art exhibitions and installations, cookery workshops, meditation, yoga, dance, Kevin McAleer performing as Gaeilge also form part of the Féile na Bealtaine remit this year, the list of events is too extensive to divulge on these pages so it's probably a good idea to grab a programme and start planning ahead!

For those with any energy left there will be a 125km cycle around the Dingle Peninsula, a dawn chorus at Gallarus Oratory and a reflective walk with Reverend Mairt Hanley.

Programmes are currently being circulated and a full schedule of events is available on the Féile na Bealtaine website, FeileNaBealtaine.ie alongside videos and audio of performers.

Tickets for the events may also be purchased online on the festival website and at the dedicated festival ticket office in Dingle.

Féile na Bealtaine is supported by the Arts Council, Fáilte Ireland and Ealaíon na Gaeltachta among others and, of course, a dedicated army of local volunteers way too numerous to mention.

With a depth and breadth of content not found in many other festivals nationally there is no doubt that Féile na Bealtaine's frenetic schedule will attract, as always, a large and eager crowd to Corca Dhuibhne next week.


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