In March 1988, in Belfast, a loyalist gunman indiscriminately attacked a crowd attending the funerals of the three IRA members killed by the SAS in Gibraltar. Three mourners were killed. When the funeral of one of the deceased was disrupted by a car containing two armed, undercover British soldiers, they were taken from the car and killed by the IRA. Under the gaze and outrage of national and international media, the West Belfast community came under sustained criticism, and in some cases, vilification.
In this horrific context and emanating from a period of intense military conflict, Féile an Phobail – the West Belfast Festival – emerged from a vision of community development and transformation. From humble beginnings, this festival is now recognized as one of Europe’s most successful community festivals.
To coincide with Féile’s 30th anniversary, this unprecedented book of community memoirs uncovers the fascinating story of a nationally and internationally significant cultural and political festival. It is a story previously neither researched nor published in significant historical detail. Drawing on the personal written accounts of many of Féile’s key activists, advocates and supporters spanning over three decades, Féile Voices explores the myriad ways that the West Belfast community organised, campaigned and struggled for recognition, in the face of often seemingly insurmountable odds. This book explores the perspectives of a diverse mix of individuals, including community activists, leading politicians, actors, playwrights, LGBTQ advocates, writers, singers, music promoters, environmentalists, academics, journalists, a human rights lawyer and Irish-language activists.