Journey to Cavan: 2010 Celtic Festival

In the ‘hollow’ of An Cabhan, or Cavan, the town very successfully hosted the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil from 16 to 22 August. Warm up events such as Family Day, for people of all ages, were held on Sunday, 15th.
After a break of fifty-six years Ireland’s national festival returned to Cavan keeping the town alive from morning to night with a feast of traditional Celtic music, dance, poetry, concerts, exhibitions, charity events and numerous competitions for thousands of performers. In multiple venues within and around the town, music, song and craic poured forth to the thousands of visitors from all over Ireland and further afield who came to enjoy the Irish traditional event. For young and old it provided a wonderful week with memories of a vibrant town.
At an estimated value of 20 million euros for the Fleidh, Cavan has attracted a number of other key events providing a marketing and trading boost to its sagging commerce and flagging fortunes through a time of deep recession near to depression. Far from disheartened, the Fleidh has given a great lift to the place and to the spirits of the people and traders in the town.
The 2010 All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil surpassed all expectations in quality and quantity of events for locals and numbers of visitors and has enthused locals and visitors for the future. It has generated strong anticipation for the annual national festival to return to Cavan in 2011.
Journey to Cavan
The venues of different events allowed an exploration of the town and its many hidden points of local history and charm. All written by a Cavan native, the short plays by the talented Gonzo Theatre group were remarkable in their variety and well researched material. Linked to the town’s long past and more recent times they were so successful that some were repeated in unscheduled programming at the variety of historical venues associated with the plays.
Unveiled by the American Ambassador to Ireland, underpinning the Cavan County Heritage Plan 2006-2011, a coordinated schools project ‘Poem For Our Time’ for children between eight and thirteen with the use of visual concepts pays tribute to Cavan’s hosting of the 2010 All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil. A lasting poem titled An Cabhan and mural designed and executed by the youth of Cavan, the town’s writers, artists and musicians of the future, is permanently displayed on a wall to the rear of Cavan Courthouse.
A new exhibition at the Cavan County Museum ‘Round the House and Mind the Dresser’ was curated for the Fleidh 2010 giving visitors a detailed and interactive experience of the history and culture of Irish Traditional Music Song and Dance from the 1700s until the present day. It has a number of historic instruments on display and a section of the exhibition space showcases the history of the tradition of Cavan. Weekly sessions take place throughout the summer at the Museum with traditional Irish music, dance and storytelling regarded worldwide as vibrant example of a ‘living’ tradition.
The Fleidh provided some first-class entertainment in well planned venues. One was the Peace III Gig Rig at the Egg Market featuring a long list of top-class performers playing free to the public culminating with Sharon Shannon and her band. The Gig Rig reflected the cross-community themes being promoted by the European Peace III funding programme. The performances focussed on celebrating shared musical heritage, with bands from UK, Europe and North America adding a global touch. As part of the Peace III stage, a world music night was held on the Thursday of the Fleidh.
A series of cross-denominational services and traditional art exhibitions were held during the week. At a packed Cavan Cathedral Sunday mass, music specially written for the Fleidh was played and sung. Conducted and sung in Irish the mass was broadcast live by RTE. Local and national media, including the presence of BBC and journalists from other countries, filmed and held interviews with the Fleidh organisers, many of the talented street artists and visitors too.
The scene was set, the show went on, complete with pageant, fireworks, concerts, ceol, craic and competitions. People flocked home, friends and relatives visited, and some 200,000 regular All-Ireland Fleadh goers converged on the town. The mission succeeded … “to put Cavan into the Fleadh, not just put the Fleadh into Cavan”.
Ita Marguet
Note: Acknowledgement is given to local and other sources used in preparation of this text. It follows a home visit to Cavan for the Fleidh Cheoil 2010.