Féile na Tuaithe - Turlough Park
An open letter from Tony Candon, manager keeper of the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life
It is a huge disappointment to me, and to all staff in the Museum of Country Life at Turlough Park, that Féile na Tuaithe will not be taking place in 2012. When I informed staff here last week that féile would not be going ahead, the sense of shock and disappointment was palpable. As we have been informing our sponsors and principal stakeholders, their response has also been one of shock and concern. The general sense is that this is going to be a very big loss not just to the local community around Turlough and Castlebar but to the wider community in the west of Ireland and beyond.
This is due directly to the budgetary situation in which the National Museum of Ireland finds itself. As Government cutbacks take their toll, the National Museum must carry its share of the burden. We in Turlough Park accept that cuts have to be made. Regrettably, one of those cuts is going to be Féile na Tuaithe which has been an annual event on the second-last weekend in May for the last seven years.
Paradoxically, and ironically, Féile na Tuaithe is a victim of its own success – as it has grown over the last few years it has become increasingly expensive to run. Approximately 20,000 to 25,000 people have been attending over the last few years. It is now firmly embedded as part of the cultural programme of the early summer in the west of Ireland. The importance of Féile na Tuaithe reaches far beyond simply the two days it takes place each May – it is one of the principal tools that has created, and sustained, the profile of the Museum of Country Life throughout the western half of Ireland.
If the Museum of Country Life is very much about the lives of ordinary people in rural Ireland in the relatively recent past, Féile na Tuaithe was an extension of the museum’s remit to bring the craft dimension of the lives of our recent ancestors to public attention in an enjoyable and family-friendly way. The wonderful atmosphere, and the tens of thousands of people who came, are testament to the museum’s success in creating an enjoyable celebration of all that is best in Irish craftsmanship.
While the primary purpose of Féile na Tuaithe has always been cultural, féile in its own way also contributed to the economic wellbeing of the area. The museum purchased goods and services to the value of tens of thousands of euro in the local area and the stallholders who participated also made money – and, even if some did not make a lot on the day, it was an effective marketing opportunity for them as well.
So, Féile na Tuaithe will not take place in 2012, and probably not for a number of years. Economic crises last only so long. One day, the economy will improve and Féile na Tuaithe will return to Turlough Park. In the meantime, staff at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life will work imaginatively and creatively to ensure that a visit to Turlough Park is a rewarding and enjoyable visit.