All roads lead to Laois for a weekend of competition and comradery with friends from right around the Leinster when Portlaoise hosts the Leinster Fleadh from July 8 to 10.
The Portlaoise organising team backed by sponsors Laois County Council, People First Credit Union, is putting the final touches on organising events which were officially launched at the end of the recent Old Fort Quarter Festival.
The weekend, which is expected to draw 1,500 competitors, features a great line up with music, song, dance and Gaeilge over the weekend. A street festival will also take place on July 9 and 10 involving the closure of Main St.
It's the first in-person holding of the festival of Irish traditional culture since the pandemic.
The competitive aspect of the fleadh begins on Friday, July 8 with dancing competitions at St Mary’s CBS, Borris Road and music competitions at St Peter’s Church, Market Sq, as well as LOETB Railway St and Tower Hill. Saturday and Sunday are exclusively devoted to music ,song and story telling.
A number of schools accommodate the many music competitions which are open to the general public on payment of a daily charge of €10 for adults, €5 for children which covers admission to all events, subject to capacity.
Laois Co Board GAA are generously providing free car parking facilities at O’Moore Park to avoid congestion in town. A free shuttle bus service will carry visitors to the town centre and competition venues each day.
The festival was officially launched on Monday, June 27 when TG4 cameras were in town to shoot footage from the launch. This included a performance by Laois trad group Goitse.
PJ Phelan is the chairperson of the local organising committee. He spoke at the launch in Portlaoise's Fort Protectorate on the grounds of the Music Generation Laois Laois School of Music Centre.
He said that with Leinster having the biggest population the Leinster Fleadh brings together the largest number of contestants vying to get through to the All-Ireland Fleadh in Mullingar. He said there are 200 entries from Laois. Mr Phelan said there have been challenges organising the event.
He thanked all involved in the local organising committee for their ongoing work to make sure the event is a success.
“It has not been easy to organised, lots of uncertainty for various reasons but we are getting there,” he said.
He also thanked the providers of the venues where the Fleadh competitions and concerts will take place. The venues include the Laois Offaly ETB schools, St Mary's CBS on the Borris Road and O'Moore Park. He was also grateful to the Church of Ireland Community for giving use of St Peter's Church over the three days of the event.
"Without the initial agreement of Joe Cunningham and the LOETB we could not have responded to the invitation to hold the first post Covid fleadh," he said.
Thanking Laois County Council's CEO John Mulholland and Director of Services Simon Walton, Mr Phelan went on to say that the active support of the Council is essential for such events to take place.
He thanked the many volunteers who had contacted Chief Steward Tommy Mulligan, saying there will be more than 250 people giving voluntary effort to operate the fleadh and associated street festival.
Clonaslee man Jody Conway is the Cathaoirleach of Leinster Comhaltas. He welcomed everyone to the launch and looked forward to the event in person.
“I am sure we are all delighted to be able to join together again having been seperated by Covid-19. During those difficult days CCE rose to the challenges presented by virtual means. However, as we move forward it is wonderful to be able to meet again for our Provincial Fleadh in Portlaoise,” he said.
Mr Conway praised the hosts.
“Portlaoise Comhaltas Branch kindly agreed to the Leinster Council's request to host this event in a time of great uncertainty,” he said.
Mr Conway also thanked Laois CCE, the Fleadh organising committee, Laois County Council, the Gardaí, Order of Malta and all local groups and volunteers who will help make the Fleadh a success.
He also expressed gratitude to the venue owners, boards of managements, sponsors and local businesses who have helped bring the Fleadh to Laois.
He hopes everyone enjoys the Fleadh and extended best of luck to all the competitors.
Apart from the competitions, music groups from around the country will play at each end of Main St. PRO Christy Bannon, adds that market traders and amusement stalls will add color to the festive mood during daytime with a Trad music trail in the
pubs later in the evening.
People in Laois and Portlaoise are being urged got get behind the Leinster Fleadh Cheoil which will bring the cream of trad music talent across the province to the county town in July.
You can also get involved by volunteering to help with events through the Laois Volunteer Centre at www.i-vol.ie
TG4 will broadcast an hour long Fleadh TV programme from Portlaoise on Sunday, July 10 as the three day event concludes.
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