Posts Tagged ‘ Feile an Phobail ’

Welcome to West Belfast 2012

The Infamous Black Taxi Tour

Northern Irish tourism has been going from strength to strength every year with overseas visitors spending an estimated £368million during 2011. As the summer of 2012 winds down, local events have attractined people from all walks of life, as West Belfast offered a range of exciting, creative and cultural experiences that were not to be missed.

Visit West Belfast Tourism Development Officer, Seán Quinn believes, “Our role involves lobbying Statutory bodies on investment and PR for West Belfast especially on tourism. We work with local businesses trying to enhance their tourism products and in developing new ideas. We also attend trade shows where we sell the West as a tourism destination.”

Many locals see West Belfast as an area where once conflict and political issues flooded the streets but in recent years this deep history has helped West Belfast in becoming a tourist hotspot. Huge numbers flock each year to Belfast to hear the stories of cultural differences and historical debates. Popular attractions include, the famous Black Taxi Tour, a walking tour organised by a political ex-prisoner and catching an open top bus to view the political murals.

Though, if politics is not your thing then start your day with a thrilling trek up Divis mountain and take in the breathtaking view of Belfast’s landscape. Then head into the heart of the West for a variety of restaurants, bars and cafés, where you can experience at first hand a warm Belfast welcome, hearty home-cooked food and traditional Irish Music.

One of West Belfast’s most captivating tours is the Gaeltacht Experience, where visitors can hear some traditional Irish music, dance and listen to locals talking about the history. This tour will surely not disappoint.

August 2012 seen the communities in West Belfast come together for a festival which firmly put the West on the map as a tourist hotspot, Féile an Phobail. The festival has gained resounding praise and has grown into one of the largest community festivals in Europe. The carnival parade brought together over 20,000 participants for a colourful, musical procession with specially-designed floats representing a chosen theme, dancers and children in costume and face-masks.It has grown from a one-week festival to a year-round programme. Kevin Gamble, Director of Féile an Phobail believes that, “festivals in West Belfast help in showcasing the West to the World.”

Mary Black, the popular Irish singer performed at Clonard Monastery and Alabama 3, a blues band known worldwide, performed at Falls Park which saw people from all areas come together, enjoy music and food and see the West in a different way. Minister of Tourism, Arlene Foster described the work put into making this all happen, “Our huge investment in tourism during 2012 and beyond is designed to help drive our economy forward faster, encouraging private sector enterprise and creating new jobs.”

The West Belfast Arts Society, which has been running for 25 years and now has a membership of over 60 people has just wrapped up a series of different weekly classes and work in different mediums. The exhibition showcased recent work of the Society’s members and featured a wide range of both medium and subject matter.

Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich in partnership with Shankill Women’s Centre celebrated International Peace Day on Friday 21st September at Townsend Street where a variety of fun filled activities such as circus performers, musicians, theatrical performances and storytelling made a great day for all to see.

Woke up this Morning in West Belfast

Over the past week communities in West Belfast have come together to create a festival known as Féile an Phobail. This festival has now gained a reputation as one of the largest community festivals in Europe. When word broke out that the act formerly known as The First Presleyterian Church Of Elvis The Devine aka Alabama 3 were going to be hitting the stage, I was excited. Every member of the group has an alias by which he/she is known, for example Rob Spragg, the Vocalist is now Larry Love and Jake Black, also on vocals is The Very Reverend Dr. D. Wayne Love.

For anyone that has never heard of Alabama 3, they are a phenomenal live band whose genre trashing, big slogan-chanting choruses and their country acid house style of music has put a unique label on a group of performers from Brixton in London. Over the years Alabama 3 have created nine studio albums such as ‘Exile on Coldharbour Lane’, ‘Power in the Blood’ and their most recent, ‘Shoplifting 4 Jesus’. They have covered songs by artists such as, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles and John Prine.

This was my chance to get an up close and personal chat with the band whose hit song, ‘Woke up this Morning’ from the album ‘Exile on Coldharbour Lane’ caught the attention of hit TV series The Sopranos producer, David Chase. The song was used for the shows opening credits and the band received international status.

When I arrived back stage, Larry Love began telling quirky and interesting stories about the band on the road touring. A few stories caught a few laughs, like the fact that Jake has a terrible habit of losing his passport and on three occasions he was almost refused entry to the US. Their Tour Manager now looks after it. Also, Nick Reynolds aka Harpo Strangelove, is the son of Bruce Reynolds, the Great Train Robber.

I asked Aurora Dawn, another vocalist, how the Sopranos opportunity came along, “After a night of intense partying at a house party in Peckham, Jake Black and Larry Love received a phone call from David Chase asking to use our record in the show. We were pretty hungover and accepted royalties of 50p a play on radio and £30 one off fee.” So due to their rock and roll lifestyle, Alabama 3 lost out on hundreds of thousands of pounds, as the show became one of the greatest television series of all time. Love commented, “Maybe we could have made a lot more money from ‘Wake up’ but that’s life. We are going to keep on performing and putting out records and that is all we can do.”

My time with the band was drawing to a close, the crowd outside were chanting and everyone in the room became quiet. Tensions rose, until Love shouted, “Let’s do this” and the adrenaline suddenly rushed through the room and the stage was theirs. The performance was a complete success and after all their years touring and performing in venues across the world, Falls Park witnessed a band with a huge reputation and persona’s perform their greatest hit “ Woke up this Morning” and standing there in the crowd I could understand how David Chase wanted these lyrics so bad.

Belfast looks forward to Alabama 3’s return, as Féile an Phobail has received enormous praise for their contribution in boosting tourism in West Belfast, as locals and tourists alike, flocked to the festival to enjoy famous bands and performers. It was an amazing event and will surely help bring tourists to Féile an Phobail 2013 as the acts are getting bigger each year, thanks to the festival’s Events Committee.

“They say we were degenerates, corrupter’s of morals, they say we were too political, too contrived, too ugly. We’ve been in and we’ve been out. In and out of the charts, in and out of fashion, in and out of rehab. We’ve been skint and we’ve been minted… and you know what? It makes no difference to us.” – Alabama 3