west belfast boy

SO, Feile is upon us again. It’s their 25th anniversary and they’re going all out to let everyone know about it. Every paper and radio station is publicising it. Fair play to their PR people, they have it sussed. They make us Westies look good compared to the Orangefest jokers.

Twenty five years eh, that means I was seven when it all began. Seven when we stopped worshipping hoods at bonfires. Seven when I started playing my part in this huge monster that has now attracted global support and has the bigots squirming with jealousy.

My input began as thus. In ye olden days, there was a place called Action Print on Kennedy Way. My da used to volunteer his time there. On a Saturday we had the option of going with my da to Action Print or to my granny’s with my ma. On the days my granny was making soup, I went to her house. On the days she made stew, I went to Action Print.

It was dark and dingy with big rattly printers churning out festival programmes and election leaflets. They even had a computer – which we weren’t allowed to breathe on.

Being young and annoying we were kept busy on the machines less likely to chop our hands off. As an arty farty of sorts, my favourite equipment was the sticker and badge maker.

I cut pictures of Bros, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan out of magazines and made pin badges. They were sold in St Oliver Plunkett playground to the girls who decorated the arms of their bomber jackets. My brothers and I would also make templates and design our own pro IRA t-shirts on the screen printer.

You know the ‘I Love West Belfast’ stickers? Do you ever read Squinter writing about his beloved Spirit of Freedom T-Shirt? We made these. Child labour at its finest.

As I got older, I took part in the festival in other ways. Our family involved itself in almost everything from parading to street parties.


I always remember the men from Springhill who dressed up as ‘Braveheart’ at one opening parade. They bared their bums at the Brits hiding away in Henry Taggart Barracks. That’s another event consigned to history. Springhill. The place that brought on my fear of public event urination. The ladies did their tinkling perched on a scaffolding plank with a modesty curtain separating them. A makeshift latrine, if you will.

As the years went by, portaloos were brought in. One time outside the Lamh Dhearg marquee, a group of men pushed one over with a drunk girl inside. She emerged covered in you know what. Ah memories…

Every year we criticise the festival because some events are too expensive and its original meaning is ebbing away in a tide of corporate bum licking. But a lot of the events are free, critics are just annoyed because they didn’t get a free pass. Even if the management don’t share your politics – it doesn’t matter. Let it go, get blocked and let your inner Westie out to play. I know I will.

First published in Facebook Notes on July 31, 2013