Expansion urged for Belfast's 'unambitious' St Patrick's Day festival

Expansion urged for Belfast's 'unambitious' St Patrick's Day festival

Belfast’s St Patrick’s Day festival should become a three-day weekend event to rival some of the world’s largest cities, a report from Féile an Phobail said.

The West Belfast community organisation criticised what it called a lack of ambition in the current offering, and said Irish talent like Snow Patrol or Ash should replace X Factor concert performances.

A new Irish Food and Drink Festival at St George’s Market would run alongside as Belfast learns from cities like New York, Dublin and Birmingham, the review published by Belfast City Council said.

      

The Féile report said: "The research would suggest that Belfast currently lacks ambition with its St Patrick’s Day celebrations, and through partnership work, and increased investment, Belfast could go on to rival some of the largest cities in the world with a new, ambitious and an economically-driven St Patrick’s Day Festival."

The report was prepared by the group which organises the annual Féile an Phobail event in west Belfast.

It highlighted the numbers of visitors attending St Patrick’s Day parades in Dublin and New York and the amount of public investment in those events.

The review said the economic benefits from Belfast’s parade, concert and associated festivities were beyond doubt, as the city fills with visitors every year.

But it suggested expanding the celebrations to encourage the night time economy and produce more extended or overnight stays in the city.

It called for greater emphasis on music and dance, St Patrick’s Day-themed tours and more performance art alongside concerts and parades.

The report added: "There is a feeling, however, that more can be done to make the experience authentic, especially the concert at Customs House Square.

"There is a preference for current Irish bands such as Picture This, Snow Patrol, etc ... this type of act would be more authentic than the X Factor performers that come across to perform.

"The parade could possibly be themed and participants could be challenged to come up with their interpretation of that theme on an annual basis."

Last year unionist and Sinn Féin councillors clashed over proposals to develop St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Belfast.

The Progressive Unionist Party’s John Kyle said often the event was a "cold house" for unionists.

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