Féile an Phobail emerged from a context of conflict and tragedy in the West Belfast of the late 1980s. In 1988, when media vilification of the community was at its height, the festival was established to nourish, represent and celebrate the vibrant creativity of a people that had suffered greatly during the conflict. What developed over the following decades was to become Ireland’s most dynamic and extensive community festival—indeed one of the most successful of its kind in Western Europe—encompassing theatre, music, photography, art, sport and a host of other activities.
The festival also provided cultural and sporting amenities with an emphasis on accessibility and participation, engaging with the kinds of communities and often marginalised social cohorts that the recent Warwick Commission on Cultural Value (2015) has identified as being continually excluded from cultural participation and events.
Féile presents fascinating insights into a bottom-up, grassroots cultural festival, often run with little resources but always with great passion and tenacity. The story of the festival is then also a deeply political and profoundly compelling subject for academic research, and it is fitting that – through digital humanities crowdsourcing methods – this project aims to tell Féile’s story with the community rather than simply about it.
For more on Féile’s history and its aims see http://www.feilebelfast.com/about-us/