hile pundits argue overthe cultural factors behind the Celtic music revival (is it a reaction against the increasingly computerised sound of the charts/linked to Republican or nationalist politics/a nostalgia-trip back to simpler, kinder days?) devotees of music played on real instruments are simply rejoicing in their good fortune. Spearheaded by Irish-influenced acts such as the Waterboys, the Hothouse Flowers and the Pogues, but with Scottish groups like Del Amitri and Deacon 8er not far behind, the .back-to-roots rehabilitation of traditional instrumentation and playing styles into both the mainstream and the fringes has been one of the most striking musical developments of recent years.

The centrepiece, or apotheosis, of these developments is the success story that is the Fleadh. Since its inception in London’s Finsbury Park in 1990, the event has expanded to the point where there are no less than four taking place this year, in London, Glasgow, New York and Boston, with the possibility of a fifth in Paris a pretty impressive two-year track record. The Fleadh (Irish Gaelic for festival or merrymaking, pronounced ‘flah’) is the


brainchild of Vince Power, owner of the Mean Fiddler venue in London. He co-organises it with the Workers’ Beer Company, a union-based organisation formed during the miners’ strike, who construct festival sites to raise funds for a variety of campaigning groups.

‘The key to Celtic music’s survival has always been its ability to adapt to new circumstances and cross-lertilise with other styles. Very little music is born on the right side of the blanket.’

‘The Fleadh grew fairly directly out of what the Mean Fiddler was doing,’ Power explains. ‘We’d been dealing with a lot of young Irish bands, and then we had a particularly successful Reading festival, which gave us the confidence to go ahead with this idea of an outdoor event just involving Irish music. It went down really well, so we did another one, and now we’ve got to the point of seeing if the idea will travel.’ While the 1990 line-up was composed exclusively of Irish acts, the musical criteria have expanded with the event, and it could now stand as a testament


a“. _-

H "F

to the sheer diversity ofcurrent . folk/roots-influenced music, though there is

5 still a strong Irish/Scots bias. ‘In a way it’s

got more to do with the people involved than the actual bands,’ says Power. ‘Hue & Cry,

: say, might not seem like an obvious choice,

but they have got a strong interest in Celtic

music, while a band like the Levellers, who

aren’t Scots or Irish, still have a similar kind

of acoustic-based, rootsy feel, and a similar

following to a lot of Celtic acts. So there’s

this sort of common appeal, a common

interest. At the same time, part ofthe idea is

to get all these people performing together

that you wouldn’t normally see on the same

i bill.’

5 While a purist few will undoubtedly be

throwing up their hands in horror at the idea

; oftraditional champions like Boys ofthe

l Lough or the Chieftains getting into bed, as it were, with the brothers Kane or The

3 Commitments’ Andrew Strong, such an

5 attitude ignores the fact that the key to Celtic music’s survival has always been its

: ability to adapt to new circumstances and

l cross-fertilise with other styles. Very little

: music is born on the right side of the blanket,

l and ifthe Fleadh is now something ofa

l Celtic-Anglo-American-folk-rock mongrel, then its hybrid vigour is all the more reason to celebrate. (Sue Wilson)

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