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Shake off the old darkness of Winter and welcome the light! It will soon be time to celebrate the official arrival of Summer with the rich and vibrant Feile Na Bealtaine 2018 in Dingle. Let’s take a look ahead to the much-anticipated festivities and banish those Winter blues once and for all!
Feile Na Bealtaine has evolved from a tentative one-day event in the nineties to a full-blown, five-day multi-disciplinary arts festival which takes place every May Bank Holiday weekend in Dingle.
Kicking off on Thursday 3rd May this year and running to Monday, 7th May, there is guaranteed to be events for all tastes and age groups. Street theatre, children’s events, music of all types, poetry recitals, art exhibitions, short films, long films, comedy acts, concerts, art exhibitions, storytelling and a poetry trail are just some of the exciting events we have to look forward to.
One of the highlights of Féile Na Bealtaine is the free Oíche Bealtaine event (pagan rave). Attendees are given a deliberately vague location in the town at which to meet and are only taken to the secret ritual grounds once a crowd has gathered. This year, the meeting place will be outside the church on Green Street at 9pm on the Saturday.
We interviewed Billy Mag Fhiloinn, one of the men behind the mask…
- Tell us a bit about the Feile - what is it, how did it start, what is so special about it.
Feile na Bealtaine began in Dingle 24 years ago, rather modestly, primarily as a poetry festival. It has grown spectacularly over the years and is now one of the premiere arts festivals in Munster, if not Ireland. Its strength lies in its sense of community and locality, and its very broad appeal. People come from all over the world, and all elements of the arts are prominent in the festival, and this variety is vital to its success.
2.How did you get involved in the festival?
I have been attending for a long time, but for several years I ran an event with artists, archaeologists and designers. We used ancient technology to make cast bronze objects. I also had an expert traveller tinsmith who taught us how to make traditional sheet metal vessels. In recent years, I have shifted gears, and have introduced a folklore/music/performance event, which is in effect a large communal ritual involving fire, ceremony and costumes.
- The Pagan festival is part of the Feile - How did the Pagan tradition start in Dingle and how does the Pagan rave tie into the Feile festival?
I was speaking to a friend on the committee, and we were remarking how the féile is named after one of the ancient pre-Christian festivals, but did not reflect this aspect of traditional culture, and how interesting it might be to introduce elements of that into the proceedings. Now it forms a fairly important part of the festival, and seems to draw a lot of performers, participants and spectators together in a great communal celebration.
- The costumes are crazy! Can you tell me about the meaning behind them?
Some are fun and frivolous, some are serious and scary, and others are something in between. I spend a lot of time making them, it has taken many years to bring them all together. I have about fifty now, and more on the way. I draw on many things for inspiration, nature, folklore, myths and legends, and aspects of film and pop culture. But all the time I try to make them organic, and a little disturbing to the senses. The material is the most important part, wood, leather, bone, shell, straw and so on. I hope that they come across as elemental, and resonate with people on some deep level of the subconscious. Familiar and strange at once.
- What’s the atmosphere like when you are performing?
We try to cultivate a feeling of otherworldliness, like one has been transported out of ordinary time and place, and to somewhere else. If we are successful, people should feel like they have stepped out of time, and into the in-between place, where ritual transformation takes place.
- Last year pagan rave you burned the Wicker Man, what does this symbolise?
It’s largely based on the 1970’s film, which has been very influential on the project, but it also refers back to an account by the ancient Greeks and Romans of Celts burning massive effigies containing victims sacrificed to their gods. We are not so bloodthirsty though, we just like the spectacle. Everyone seems to enjoy a good effigy burning too, and there’s something cathartic about the whole process.
- Describe the Pagan rave in 3 words...
Strange, Wild, Liberating
- How can a visitor to Dingle get involved in the festival? Is it spectator event or can they partake?
It’s a bit of both. There’s a straw costume workshop on Friday the 4th in Currans, where people can make their own costumes for the next day’s event. We encourage people to dress appropriately, like otherworld beings from the deep past, and when the music is underway, it is important for us all, everyone present, to dance and shout and surrender to the communal joy.
- For you, describe Dingle in 3 words?
It’s traditional, contemporary, and vibrant.
You can find out more information on the Feile here -
You can find out more about Billy here -
Don't forget to book your Dingle stays!
We're offering €100 off your May and September 2018 booking!