BETTER consultation and planning is needed for festivals to avoid clashes, as has happened with this year’s Feakle Festival and Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.
That’s the message from Councillor Pat Hayes, who says this year’s Fleadh Cheoil, which takes place in Derry from August 12 to 18, will have a knock-on effect for other traditional music festivals in Clare.
He believes a shift in the fleadh’s dates over time “has caused difficulties for other festivals, such as the Feakle Festival”.
“Other festivals have had to change their dates to work around it. It has shortened the month of August. A whole lot of traditional music festivals around Ireland had to change their dates because of the fleadh.
“We couldn’t move in Feakle because we are 26 years with the same week. If we move back, we will be clashing with the Scariff Harbour Festival.
“It is not a case of us moving the festival but it is disappointing that there hasn’t been more consultation at some level that these things are changing because nobody knows the consequences it can have for viable tourism products,” he said.
He explained last year was the first time the Feakle Festival noticed there was an impact.
“We noticed a marked change in that people came earlier in the week and left on the Saturday and Sunday because they were going to the workshops in Cavan.
“We have to concentrate our programme more to earlier in the week to make sure we get people and promote it more.
“We are not overly worried about this year’s numbers. We are concerned that the core people that are into Irish music are taken away from each other and this has a knock-on effect, as we have had to spend more money on marketing and promotion than we might,” he said.
Labhrás Ó Murchú, director general of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, explained there has not been a move of the All-Ireland Fleadh by a week in the last year or two but that a number of years ago, the dates did come forward to facilitate schools participating from the UK and America. Over time, these dates suited, as pupils in Ireland began returning to school in the last week of August.
“My own recollection is that we have a lot of competitors from abroad and they had to be back at school on the Monday and competitions were still happening on the Sunday and, to some extent, on the Monday so the only chance we had of keeping them was to change it by the week. As happened of course in subsequent years, with the changes in the Irish schools, we were already prepared for that as a result,” Mr Ó Murchú said.
Nevertheless, Councillor Hayes said the Feakle Festival will be expecting a greater influx of people with its programme of events and also the addition of a health conference focused on Parkinson’s Disease this year.