Almost 60 years after the first ever fleadh took place in Mullingar, a campaign is gathering steam to bring the event back to the Westmeath town in three years’ time.
From the inaugural event in Mullingar in 1951, when a couple of hundred music fans descended on the town, to this year’s massive international festival in Cavan, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann has a rich tradition as a platform for the best of Irish music, song, and dance.
And the proposed event in 2013 would mark the 50th anniversary of the last time Mullingar hosted the event.
Inspired by Athlone’s hosting of the 2010 Eurofestival earlier this year, Rochfortbridge’s Cllr Colm Arthur is kicking things off by calling on Westmeath County Council to establish a festival fund for Mullingar to attract the 2013 fleadh.
“In Athlone this year the Eurofestival was very much supported by Westmeath County Council, with a fund that was set up three years ago to make the festival happen,” he said.
“Everyone says we should have the fleadh in Mullingar, but we will be starting the budgetary process for 2011 soon and businesses will be looking for rate reductions.
“I would propose instead putting money aside for the festival, which would be a huge advantage for business people in Mullingar.”
Cllr Arthur is hopeful that his motion tabled at yesterday [Thursday]’s Kilbeggan Area Meeting will be referred to the county’s arts and culture SPC (special policy committee ) for consideration, and that the wheels can be set in motion to attract the fleadh to Mullingar.
“I hope it will get people talking and get things moving,” he said.
County arts officer Catherine Kelly said anything that would help to promote traditional arts and cultural tourism in Mullingar should be encouraged.
“As part of the county’s new arts plan we are encouraging the development of the traditional arts. Comhaltas Ceoltoiri has a new premises in Mullingar as a centre for traditional arts, and there is a deep tradition in Westmeath of song, dance, and oral arts forms.
“Fleadh Cheoil would be a welcome addition and would bring cultural tourism into the town. It would help to promote the traditional arts and would be a welcome boost for local business.
“Anything that encourages the development of an audience for traditional arts is welcome and I would be very keen to support it and to offer any assistance I can,” she added.