Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Friday, 29 July 2005 17:12 UK

City rocks during people's festival

West Belfast festival
The west Belfast festival is now in its 18th year

The streets of west Belfast will be rocking during the course of the next week as the annual festival gets into full swing.

The Féile and Phobail (The People's Festival) began 18 years ago during the Troubles and was seen as an opportunity to portray Belfast in a more positive light.

As usual it features a mixture of local and international music acts, political tours, walks and talks, as well as hundreds of locally organised events.

The festivities begin on Friday night with the first music at the giants foot gathering, in Beechmount Leisure Centre, where Irish rockers Hothouse Flowers will entertain a packed house.

Over the weekend, dozens of events, plays and concerts will culminate in the lively carnival parade, which leaves Conway Street at 1300 BST on Sunday, finishing at MacRory Park on the Whiterock Road.

Major acts over the week include Scottish rockers The Proclaimers, Dublin balladeer Damien Dempsey and the Afro-Celts Sound System.

'Negative image'

Sean Paul O'Hare, director of Feile an Phobail, said the festival started in 1988 when there was a lot of trouble on the streets of Belfast.

"Belfast at that time had a very negative image. Every year on the anniversary of internment we had a lot of trouble on our streets, conflict between the British Army and our young people," he said.

"It was felt by Gerry Adams and our community leaders that we needed to change the image of west Belfast and we needed a clear role for our young people and what we created then was the west Belfast festival, Feile an Phobail.

"Feile an Phobail is about getting people together, to come in and enjoy the talent."

In light of the recent IRA statement announcing an end to its armed campaign, Mr O'Hare said there would also be events at the festival where recent political developments would be discussed.

One of the most popular events during the week is West Belfast Talks Back, when a panel of unionist and nationalist politicians get a chance to discuss their views with an always lively audience.

This year's panel for the discussion, which is taking place on 3 August, will be DUP Assembly member Arlene Foster, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey, Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy and SDLP Assembly member Dolores Kelly.

The festival begins on 29 August and runs until 7 August.

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01 Jul 03 |  Northern Ireland
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03 Aug 02 |  Northern Ireland

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