‘A lovely buzz’ in Drogheda as thousands flock to Fleadh Cheoil

‘It’s lovely to walk around in the sun and see the kids playing the fiddle and dancing and that sort of thing outside the shops’

Fleadh Cheoil   in Drogheda. Over 2,000 volunteers worked  throughout the weekend to keep the town clean and ensure events ran smoothly.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Fleadh Cheoil in Drogheda. Over 2,000 volunteers worked throughout the weekend to keep the town clean and ensure events ran smoothly. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Over 500,000 Irish music lovers from all around the world, including Australia, France, Spain and Brazil, flocked to the Fleadh Cheoil in Drogheda, Co Louth, this year, organisers have said.

Among them, Raquel Chole who runs the Murphy Roche Irish Music Club in a small town called Burr Ridge in Illinois, Chicago. Every year she makes the 3,000km journey to the festival, and this year over 25 student performers travelled with her to perform and compete at the fleadh. The children play a wide range of instruments, including the fiddle, harp and accordion.

“I’ve always just really loved Irish music,” she said at the weekend. “It’s been absolutely fabulous so far. We don’t really care about the medals. It’s about the kids immersing themselves in learning the music.”

Ms Chole said through learning Irish music the children become the best of friends, and it could be heard through the improvement in their playing – the music was more in sync, “more harmonious”.

“My under-12s group this year is remarkably good.”

One of the group, Imogen Kylie, performed at the fleadh for the first time this year. She sang a lively ballad in Irish. She said her father back home in Chicago was a fluent Irish speaker and passed on the gift.

Tourists and locals enjoyed events including a dusk guided visit to Knowth on Saturday, with a live performance from the Four Corners Céilí Band and a lively solo step dance show by Nic Gareiss at Droichead Arts Centre.

Peggy Doherty and her husband Michael Doherty travelled from Co Donegal to enjoy the festivities. Watching a group of Japanese musicians play traditional Irish music by the river, Ms Doherty said she found it incredible to see how many corners of the world have been touched by the beauty of traditional Irish music. Dozens of onlookers gathered on the street to watch the group play. “The atmosphere is amazing, and sure, it’s a great wee day for it, isn’t it?”

The couple had been to several music events all around the town and couldn’t pick a single favourite.

Big crowds

John McGrane, who lives in Drogheda said there was “ a lovely buzz” in the town. “It’s lovely to walk around in the sun and see the kids playing the fiddle and dancing and that sort of thing outside the shops. It’s huge. It’s a great achievement to everyone organising the festival, and the town is coping great with the big crowds.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made an appearance at the festival on Saturday afternoon. He praised the “wonderful celebration of Irish music”, and said the high levels of tourism had been a great boost for the town’s economy, evident by several restaurants booked out for the day and pubs crammed to capacity.

Over 2,000 volunteers worked hard throughout the weekend to keep the town clean and ensure events ran smoothly.

The festival was due to conclude on Sunday with a Farewell from the Fleadh at the Barbican Centre.