Spring Féile Offers Maximum Respect to Festival-Goers

Stephen Rea calls for wider response to immigration policy as new human rights festival launches joint programme with Belfast's biannual Irish culture celebration

Féile an Earraigh, west Belfast’s spring festival, has joined forces with the inaugural Respect Belfast Human Rights Film Festival to produce a combined programme packed with events spanning March 3 to 18. It was launched by award-winning actor, Field Day theatre company founder and Respect Festival patron Stephen Rea at a lively event hosted by Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, in the heart of the city's Gaeltacht Quarter.

Running from March 3 to 8, Respect Festival will feature screenings and discussions that promote a wider understanding of human rights subjects, such as immigration, asylum, women’s rights, war and conflict, mental health, LGBT rights, workers' rights, environmental concerns, healthcare, austerity and disability issues. It will also explore the wider cultural, human and socio-political implications of conflict and the countless ways these have been presented through film, both historically and in contemporary cinema.

Féile an Earraigh follows from March 10 to 18, boasting an eclectic line-up of live music, theatre (including Kabosh’s hugely acclaimed Those You Pass on the Street), family events, tours (including the epic West Awakes), talks (including West Belfast Youth Talks Back) and St Patrick’s Day fun. Browse the joint programme for both festivals below.

Féile director Kevin Gamble said: 'Belfast’s Féile an Phobail, Ireland’s biggest community arts festival and summer school, are delighted to present our Spring Festival, Féile an Earraigh which will take place in venues across Belfast from March 3 to 18 2017. Féile an Earraigh is very much about putting Irish traditional music, language, and culture to the forefront of our celebrations, and what better time to host this festival than during the lead up to St Patricks Day in Belfast.'

'We're delighted this year to be partnering with the Respect Human Rights Film Festival in its inaugural year, who have produced a programme that offers a dazzling diversity of events, offering a wider understanding of human rights subjects. Can I place on record my thanks and appreciation to all of our festival partners, funders and sponsors who continue to support the work of Féile.'

Roisin McDonagh of Arts Council Northern Ireland said: 'Féile An Earraigh is an important part of the cultural life that binds this city together. It makes a significant contribution to helping open up the city to all of us, through our shared enthusiasm for the arts. This celebration of Irish arts and culture, song, music, dance and storytelling, will draw people to the Falls Gaeltacht Quarter. Year on year, it shows its commitment to engaging with new as well as existing audiences, which is key to bringing communities closer together. The Arts Council, as principal funder through our Exchequer and National Lottery funds, is delighted to support this festival as it enhances the creative, social and economic life of West Belfast through the arts and extends a hand of welcome across the city and beyond.'

Respect director Sean Murray said: 'A major theme of this year’s festival is the increasing refugee crisis faced by many displaced people around the world. This will be particularly reflected in a number of screenings and events that will highlight the difficulties faced by families attempting to flee the current conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.

'As we ourselves face many obstacles within a post-conflict society, a number of documentaries, talks and events will attempt to address, investigate, and act as an advocate in the issues and debates that are simplified and marginalized by mainstream film and broadcast media. This will be facilitated via many screenings, events and workshops by our dedicated volunteers and by a number of academics from both Queen’s and Ulster Universities who are considered experts within their own particular fields. We hope you can join us in making this great event a cornerstone for the promotion of human rights for many years to come.'

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Speaking at the launch, Stephen Rea said: 'I would like to say that I am honoured to become patron of the Respect Belfast Human Rights Film Festival. As the world faces many political uncertainties, it is of vital importance that an event, such as this, can empower, educate and advocate for those without a voice. As a country, we understand what it is to migrate. We departed this country in millions to go all around the world; we know what political asylum means and platforms such as these can galvanise the response needed to ensure a more compassionate policy from our governments.

'Given the appalling conditions faced by many under the Irish ‘Direct Provision’ system, a strategy intent in dissuading others from seeking asylum, we ought to highlight the needs of those facing political persecution within their own countries in order to stimulate a wider international response. In a week dedicated to many issues around human rights, it is imperative that we engage in many of the screenings, talks and events that this wonderful festival has to offer.'

As part of the Respect at Féile an Earraigh programe, dozens of screenings and associated events are set to take place across Belfast in venues, such as, school halls, community centres, universities and cinemas over a six-day period from March 3 to 8. Other partners include Belfast Film Festival, Film Hub NI and Queen's Film Theatre, who will be screening an international short film competition that explores a wide variety of human rights issues.

A number of leading film academics and filmmakers will participate in screenings followed by a Q&A with audience members in order to incite debate around the issues at hand. Over 90% of screenings will be free to the public with particular emphasis on engaging with youth via workshops and panel discussions.

For further details on each festival go to www.feilebelfast.com or www.respectfilmfest.com.