Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.
BlogEventsFestivalsGeneralParticipatory Democracy

‘The Festival Torch Still Burns Brightly’

Ciaran Cahill of Springhill Community House reminisces about the 1973 Upper Springfield Festival and how its spirit continues today through Féile na gCloigíní Gorma

The festival torch still burns brightly.

Much like the Olympic torch being passed from one games to another the Upper Springfield festival torch is passed from one festival to another.

The first Upper Springfield Festival took place 50 years ago in 1973, then the emblem of the festival was a torch. The festival organisers said “It was a torch that was grasped by young and old alike” and as the preparations of the festival grew the flames of the torch “grew brighter.”

The festival came just at the right time, the organisers described the situation at the time as, “The quality of life, held out to the people of the Upper Springfield area of Belfast, has never been great at the best of times. Since the beginning of the troubles over four years ago, things have deteriorated even more, as a result of the political situation and military activities. This has brought about an almost total destruction of the social and recreational life of the community.”

The idea of holding a festival originally came from a few local people who asked themselves “Would this not be a wonderful opportunity for people to uplift themselves and to build up and improve community spirit.”

The answer was yes and the festival soon became a reality, the streets were filled with “laughter and gaiety….., heralding better times to come.”

The aims of the festival were to;

“Boosts the morale and self-confidence of the community through community participation.”

“To encourage activities of a sporting cultural and educational nature.”

“To foster community development, community education and community relations in the greater Springfield area.”

During the weeklong festival, the programme included theatre, music concerts, poetry, street parties, soccer, Gaelic football, hurling, fancy dress, bingo, boxing, folk music, swimming, darts and a Céilí.

Many more festivals would follow including the famed Springhill festival all of which were forerunners to Féile an Phobail now the biggest community festival in Ireland.

Fifty years later the festival torch burns brightly through the Féile na gCloigíní Gorma – Festival of the Blue Bells. Now in its 7th year the festival organisers, like those 50 years ago, were united in “building a sense of community, solidarity, celebration and well-being!”

Ciarán, the young child on the very left, taking part in the 1973 Festival Parade

The residents of the Upper Springfield are living in very different times than they were 50 years ago and are battling very different but challenging issues. The organisers described the situation now as the “permanent crisis of capitalism” rather than a cost of living crisis. “Capitalism will cost us the Earth. The same greed in the name of profit is taking us further towards the greatest crisis of our time: climate destruction. It is the colonised and the poor of the world who contribute least to the climate crisis but who suffer the worst.”

Féile na gCloigíní Gorma – Festival of the Blue Bells takes its name from the sea of indigenous wild Blue Bells on the Black Mountain’s Hatchet field. The organisers choose the blooming blue bells as a symbol and “to remind local people of the joys of life, their natural environment and historical and spiritual connections with our environment and community.”

They too produced a packed programme of events and activities over 8 days that mirrored the first Upper Springfield Festival with an emphasis on well-being, the Irish language and environmentalism. Culminating in a festival parade through the area just as they did in 1973, followed by GAA and soccer tournaments and family fun day.

I have no doubt the 1973 festival organisers will be smiling down on Féile na gCloigíní Gorma and its organisers not just for their programme of events but their activism, resilience and tenacity in tackling the current day challenges that face our community head on.

Well done to all involved and thanks to our predecessors who taught them well.

The smiling faces say it all.

More pictures from then and now:

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button