Northern Ireland news

Féile launches with focus on historic events of 1916

 Theologian Dr Gavin Kerr, left, and atheist Jack Duffin at The Roddy McCorlai Club for Féile an Phobail religion discussion as they debate whether morality comes from religion. Picture by Declan Roughan
Paul Ainsworth

The legacy of 1916 is woven throughout the 28th Féile an Phobail, with the annual programme of music, drama, comedy, and exhibitions peppered with reflections on the turbulent events of a century ago.

The west Belfast festival kicked off with a political walking tour, a photography workshop, and a debate on religion and morality, but two events based on the life and death of Roger Casement, who was sent to the gallows 100 years ago, offered a flavour of the 2016 line-up in a year that has witnessed Easter Rising commemorations across Ireland.

St Mary's University College hosted a discussion - The Relevance of Roger Casement - in which historian Dr Angus Mitchell, who has worked on several Casement-themed publications, spoke on the legacy in the north of the colonial-turned rebel.

At the An Chultúrlann arts centre, the Brassneck Theatre Company staged An Incorrigible Irishman by James Skivvington, a drama focussing on the Dublin-born humanitarian pioneer, whose life of activism in locations including the Congo and South America came to an end after being seized attempting to smuggle arms into Ireland to help the cause of the Easter revolutionaries.

Brassneck also staged the first of their four performances of Belfast Rising, incorporating music, drama, and visuals, that tells the tale of those with roots in the city who became engulfed in the conflict.

Other centenary-themed events featured in Féile's Perspectives of 1916 programme include a discussion today by University of Limerick lecturer Dr Ruan O’Donnell on The International Aspects of the Rising and a talk this Friday by Professor Laura McAtackney on the enigmatic Constance Markievicz - the Rising leader who went on to become the first female MP elected to the House of Commons.

Féile director Kevin Gamble said he was looking forward to the festival portraying Belfast's connections to the events of 100 years ago.

"1916 shaped the island of Ireland as we know it, and one of the big themes of the Féile this year will be the role Belfast and people from its communities played during that period," he said.

"Along with the talks and dramas about this iconic period, we have also transformed the International Wall on the lower Falls to features the events and figures who played a part in this history, including Casement, Connolly, and Carson."

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