The good, the mad and the trad in Cavan: Final weekend of Fleadh

Sat, Aug 18, 2012, 01:00

THOUSANDS of people crammed on to the narrow streets of Cavan town yesterday for the start of the final weekend of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, the world’s largest traditional music festival.

The local economy is expecting a €40 million windfall from the 10-day festival, with more than 300,000 people due to flock to the town over the weekend.

The festival, which has been held in the town for the past three years, will cross the Border to Derry in 2013 for the first time.

Some 1,400 volunteers were on hand to ensure the event ran smoothly. More than 200 events took place over the fleadh, the majority of which were free.

Director general of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Labhrás Ó Murchú said the crowds were far larger than last year. He said up to 800 young musicians would attend the Scoil Éigse over the weekend, many of them hoping to emulate some of the school’s former pupils who are now household names in the world of traditional music.

“Cavan had expanded the fleadh beyond the realms of traditional music to bring in other activities so that the number of events meant that all art forms found their niche,” he said.

Cavan Town Council chairman Des Cullen said this year’s fleadh had exceeded all expectations.

Cavan County Council chairman Paddy O’Reilly said the mantle would be handed over to Derry tomorrow night.

“It is historic in its own right as it’s the first time the fleadh will be held over the Border,” he said. “I have spoken to a number of unionist politicians and members of the DUP who came down to the fleadh. It is a major step forward that they came down to Cavan and will welcome it to Derry city. It is the most positive thing since the Good Friday agreement.”

Orla Fanthorpe from Tyrone was there with her cousins Caoimhe and Eimear Fanthorpe from Armagh. They said it was their first time in Cavan and although they were slightly overwhelmed by the crowds, they were enjoying playing music on the streets and soaking up the atmosphere.

Tim Popplewell from Gorey in Wexford was in Cavan with his wife Lisa and their children Jai, Callum – who plays tin whistle and flute – and Amy, who also plays tin whistle “It’s a fabulous event. It’s slightly daunting because of the scale but it’s very well organised,” he said.

The Taiwanese ambassador to Ireland, Harry Tseng, who was visiting Cavan for the fleadh said he was there to enjoy the “beautiful culture”.