Chair hosts reception for the 60th anniversary of Fermanagh Feis

24th May 2022

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The Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Errol Thompson, recently hosted a reception to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Fermanagh Feis.

Below is the text of the speech which was delivered by Councillor Thompson at the reception.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

As Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, I would like to welcome you all to the Ardhowen Theatre in Enniskillen this evening for this reception to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Fermanagh Feis.

I understand the history of the Feis in Fermanagh dates back to the early 1900s before it ceased at the time of the First World War.  The Feis was revived in 1935, ceased again at the time of the Second World War and it wasn’t formally revived until 1962.

The first Feis in Fermanagh in 1962 saw a colourful parade pass along Belmore Street and an Arts and Crafts Fair before finishing with a Ceili in the Townhall which at that time, I believe, was one of the main entertainment venues in Enniskillen.

In 1965 and 1966 the event was held outside of Enniskillen in Maguiresbridge and Irvinestown respectively before returning to the county town in 1967.  By this time the event had developed into a 3-day event and in consecutive years up to 1971 it continued to expand when the event ran for 11 days.

From 1973, with the Townhall no longer available as a venue, the Feis moved to a new home at what was known then as ‘The Tech’, now the former site of South West College. In more recent years, the events have been held in schools and community venues across the town.

The traditional competitions included essay writing, poetry and song, storytelling and recitation, solo and choral singing, solo and group dancing and instrumental music with classical music being added in 1969.

During the period from 1974-1979, I understand that well known classical pianist, composer and newspaper proprietor, Joan Trimble, offered an Impartial Reporter Bursary for Classical music signalling her belief in unifying the power of the arts with the work of the Feis.  Another first for the Feis was the addition of solo piping and drumming competitions in 1999.

Over the years the Feis has grown in popularity with record entries, presenting the organising Committee with the not inconsiderable challenge of ensuring that everything was programmed to take place within the agreed schedule.

The Fermanagh Feis could be attributed to launching the careers of some very successful local performers including actors Adrian Dunbar and Frank McCusker who both won the 8-10 years Boys Verse Speaking competition; TV and Radio Broadcaster and Author, John Kelly, who wrote a poem about Fermanagh Feis in 1979; and renowned Fermanagh Tenor, Andrew Irwin, who won Feis Young Singer of the Year in 2012.

Although the primary focus of the Feis is the competitions, another important aspect is the emphasis on the community and social benefits and the platform it provides our young people to showcase their talents and develop skills which will enable them to achieve success in so many aspects of their lives.

The success of the Feis depends on dedicated people like you who come together and voluntarily organise events, venues and adjudicators and coordinate all the entries and results ensuring that the Feis runs smoothly.

On behalf of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, I would like to commend each of you and indeed all the Committee Members, past and present, for your commitment, hard work and enthusiasm which has contributed to making Fermanagh Feis such a success over the last 60 years and I wish you every success for the future.

Thank you.