Home Lifestyle Fleadh officials to visit Laois this weekend as local bid gathers momentum

Fleadh officials to visit Laois this weekend as local bid gathers momentum

The Fleadh was a huge success when it was held in Derry in 2013 and the image here shows one example of the scale of the crowd and the lively atmosphere

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.

“While there is no doubt that Portlaoise and the surrounding area is very suitable for such an event, the Leinster Council will have to decide to promote only one town from the list of applicants which includes Mullingar, Tullamore and Wexford each of which has the experience of hosting the fleadh on a previous occasion,” said chairman of Laois CCE PJ Phelan.
Adding that he is enthused by the level of support from Laois Co Council, business groups and community organisations, he said also that “this is one mammoth undertaking which can’t be done without absolute commitment from everyone in Laois”.

“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 main focus of the visit on Saturday will centre on the schools and halls for the music workshops and competitions as well as the outdoor spaces for street entertainment. The number of new schools in Portlaoise as well as hotels in the area and a train station in the centre of town are all thought to be positive factors in Portlaoise’s bid.

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”.

ESB Networks and EirGrid have pledged to support Portlaoise’s bid to host the international traditional music event.

“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).

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.