Ennis, the Heart of the Tradition

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is the greatest showcase for our Traditional Arts on Earth. For one week every August the very best of traditional talent from all over Ireland and the world comes together to meet, to compete, but, most importantly, to celebrate all that is best in Irish music song and dance.

For the host town, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann signals a joyful invasion of musicians and listeners alike, young and old, families and tourists, all drawn by the magic that the Fleadh promises and always delivers. Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann also offers many challenges for the host town and surrounding communities as they work to accommodate the huge crowds, organising competitions and events to ensure that the Fleadh experience is a memorable one for all those involved. 

Ennis itself is no stranger to Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. The town has twice before been home to the event and both occasions are regarded as milestones in establishing the Fleadh, both on the national and international stage, as a festival of significant cultural standing.

It is generally recognised that the 1956 All-Ireland Fleadh in Ennis played a pivotal role in the renaissance of our Traditional Culture with the Organising Committee under the stewardship of Seán Reid devising an innovative and exciting new format for the presentation of Traditional Music, Song and Dance. That Fleadh proved a tremendous hit with both artistes and audiences alike and generated huge media interest at home and abroad. Immortalised by Robbie McMahon in his song “The Fleadh Down in Ennis”, memories of that great event were still fresh when in 1977, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann returned to the town and, once again, Ennis did not disappoint.

The impact of this seminal event on the prevailing Traditional Music landscape was profound. It inspired a whole generation of artistes who continue to be at the forefront of the transmission of our Cultural Heritage including Kieran Hanrahan, Paul Roche, Eamonn and Geraldine Cotter, Vincent McMahon, Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, John and Séamus McMahon, Carol Talty, James Cullinan, and Mary and Josephine Nugent. 

The success of the 1977 Fleadh also provided the impetus for the establishment of a Headquarters for Comhaltas in the County. Today Cois na hAbhna, recently renovated, proudly presents the traditional arts to the people of Clare through the mediums of music, song, dance, film, a significant archive, and classes that are open to all.

And while Ennis has proudly and successfully hosted Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in the past, today the town is at the heart of a strong and vibrant countywide tradition where names like Willie Clancy, Mrs Crotty, Junior Crehan and Paddy Canny invoke instant recognition. 

But the legends of the past do not overshadow the present. Far from it. Instead, their treasured legacy bears witness to new generations dedicated to safeguarding county Clare’s deserved reputation as the home of traditional music. 

Each year many events are held throughout the County including Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy and the Feakle and Tulla Festivals. Ennis itself is the home of two Traditional Festivals of international renown – Fleadh Nua in May each year and the Ennis Trad Festival held in November.

Ennis also has a vibrant year round traditional music scene ranging from Céilithe in Cois na hAbhna to Concerts at Glór and the more informal sessions in the pubs and hotels of the town any night of the week. The fact that traditional music is woven into the fabric of everyday life in the town and county is also reflected on the airwaves. Award winning local radio station Clare F.M. broadcasts an unrivalled two hours of traditional music programmes every evening from Monday to Friday, attracting some of the highest listenership figures in its schedule.

The vitality of the Traditional Arts scene in County Clare today is due in no small part to the vibrant network of Comhaltas Branches throughout the County. Clare now has a magnificent Regional Resource Centre at Cois na hAbhna, and Tithe Ceoil in Kilrush, Ennistymon and Corofin. All Comhaltas branches in Clare are enthusiastic and excited by the prospect of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann coming to the county. Hosting Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ennis would present a fantastic opportunity for Comhaltas in Clare to display its many abilities and achievements on a national and international stage. While Comhaltas in the town and county are looking forward to the challenge of hosting Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, the people of Ennis and county Clare have also warmly welcomed the idea. The local authorities, the voluntary and business sectors have all signalled their full support foe Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2016. 

In 2010, Ennis hosted Féile na nGael, when thousands of young people descended on the town and its environs in what was hailed as one of the most successful competitions ever. Bhuaigh Inis Gradam Náisiúnta Glór na nGael i 2007. Having won the European Gold Medal at the Entente Florale Competition in 2002, the town scooped the National Tidy Towns Award in 2005. From 1998 to 2002 Ennis was also Ireland’s Information Age Town. Experience has shown that the people of Ennis and Clare greatly value their cultural and physical environment, enjoy a strong sense of civic pride and participate fully in major projects. To host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in 2016 will be a tremendous honour for the people of Ennis and the entire county.