An important step in the Portlaoise bid to host the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil will be taken on Saturday when members of the Leinster Council Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann will visit Portlaoise to assess the suitability of the town to host the biggest cultural festival in Europe.
Commonly referred to as ‘The Fleadh’, the event runs for over a week every August and it was estimated that over 400,000 attended it when it was in Ennis in Clare last year.
It was officialy opened by Michael Flatley and attended by president Michael D Higgins.
Up to 10,000 musicians take part in competitions throughout the event and the host towns are alive at night with the festival atmosphere and trad sessions on every corner.
It is believed to be worth at least €10million to the local economy. While Drogheda are holding it again in 2019, Portlaoise are bidding to be the next Leinster host.
“Of course this is really an international fleadh with competitors from America, Japan and UK vying with native musicians, singers, dancers and storytellers for the All-Ireland title.”
The earliest opportunity to bring the fleadh to Laois would be 2020, but it may visit the other provinces before returning to Leinster after Drogheda 2019.
With Drogheda hosting it in 2018 and 2019, it is unlikely to return to a Leinster venue again in 2020 – but the Laois bid is being prepared as the next Leinster location.
The bid committee will need to show they have at least €100,000 in their bank account but Mr Phelan says it is “a huge opportunity to show off what we have in the county” and would “bring incredible value”.
“There is a big effort to promote tourism in Laois but this is a proven draw and it’s the type of event that could give the county the boost it needs,” said Mr Phelan earlier this year when we broke the story that Portlaoise were bidding to host the event.
The Fleadh was hosted in Tullamore from 2007 to 2009 and in recent years it has been in Cavan (2010-2012), Derry (2013), Sligo (2014-2015), Ennis (2016-2017) and now Drogheda (2018-2019).