Feis 2016

Set dancing resumes in the Glens of Antrim hotel Cushendall  on Tuesday 27 th September at 9:30pm.
Tim Flaherty will be back again. Everyone welcome especially beginners!


Is  Bliain stairiúil í seo  mar don chéad uair  beidh Feis na nGleann ar siúl i nGleann Fhreabhail, áit in ar chuir dream beag daoine tús le CLG sa pharóiste céad bhliain ó shoin.D’fhás an club de réir a chéile agus anois tá ionad ar dóigh ann..

History will be made this year when Feis na nGleann takes place in Glenravel where the Club will celebrate the centenary of its founding by a small group of enthusiasts. The Club, which later was named after Conn Magee of 1798 fame, has developed into one of the strongest in the County and will provide an excellent venue for the Feis.


Ealaíona agus Ceirdeanna (Arts & Crafts)

Pádraic Ó Cléireacháin

It was FJ Biggar’s idea to have a Local Industries Section at the first Glens Feis in 1904. He was also certainly inspired by the Russian peasant arts exhibit at the Paris Exposition of 1900. Biggar had been planning how best to revive the ancient native Gaelic culture of Ireland and he regarded native crafts as an essential part of this culture. There were close links between the Russian exhibit and the crafts section at the 1904 Feis.

In the 1904 Feis the local industries section was one of the largest, with 46 competitions. Among the activities covered were spinning, weaving, knitting, embroidery, lace-making, garment-making, quilting, butter-making, baking, shoemaking, metal working, furniture-making, basket-making, woodcarving, toy-making, drawing and painting. Skills among the local population were well-defined. The founding of the toy factory in Cushendall in 1900 had helped to raise and improve standards, especially in wood-carving, sewing, knitting, embroidery and associated skills. The items produced by the toy factory were continually in high demand due to their excellent quality. The home industry workshop founded by Mrs Riddell in Ballycastle at the turn of the century had also helped to improve the standard of traditional skills, especially among the young.

Over the centuries spinning, weaving and needlework to make family clothing and furnishings were part of the daily ritual in most homes in Ireland. There was a variety of crafts at the first Feis, perhaps the most notable being the patchwork quilt display. The women came together to make a quilt, becoming quite a social occasion. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the introduction of the large weaving and spinning mills was to revolutionise this craft. By the mid twentieth century the custom of spinning and weaving in the home was largely extinct. The availability of ready-made clothing and the improvement in living standards made the purchase of off-the-peg items more appealing and fashionable.

In recent years, due mainly to the increase in tourism, the arts and crafts industry has enjoyed a revival throughout Ireland. This section continues to be a popular feature of the Feis weekend and over the years other crafts have been added such as pottery, leatherwork, rug-making, calligraphy, flower-arranging, jam-making and photography. There is also a group heritage project, open to both primary and post-primary schools. It can be on a locality, an ancient monument etc., and the winning school is awarded the John Turnly Memorial Trophy.

In 2004 there were 68 competitions in four main sections: art, kitchencraft, needlecraft and wood, metal and other craft. The exhibition was held in a marquee over two days in the field at Glenariff and attracted over two thousand visitors.

From Moscow to Moyle: Arts & Crafts at the first Feis na nGleann
Joseph McBrinn

The ‘Art & Industrial Exhibition’ at the first Feis na nGleann in 1904, although little acknowledged today, was one of the most significant exhibition in Irish cultural history. It flowed directly, in its championing of rural craft traditions, folk art and National Romanticism, from the éclat of the Russian peasant arts (the kustar) in the ‘Russian Village’ at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle. The link between the 1900 Russian exhibition in Paris and the arts and crafts exhibition at the 1904 Feis is much closer than is generally thought. There had, in fact, been a direct and conscious cross-pollination of the Moscow style moderne to the shores of Moyle. The Russian-Irish correspondence first occurred in fin de siècle Belfast, where Russian craft-worker and proselytiser Anna Pogosskaia, who became well known through her work for Princess Tenisheva at Talashkino in Russia, came to promote her William Morris-inspired rural handicrafts, encouraging a group of young local women to set up the Portush-based Irish Decorative Arts Association in 1984.

In Belfast at the time, FJ Biggar, local solicitor, antiquary, folklorist and Celtic Revival polymath, first formulated the idea to found a more permanent celebration of local Gaelic culture, following the success of the 1798 Centenary. Biggar was looking beyond Belfast and was already visiting the Glens of Antrim, where he found a rich repository of ancient native culture. As elsewhere during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, industrial revolution, famine, linguistic obliteration, urban migration, and economic depression had blighted the Glens’ population but their irrepressible ingenuity and artistry, in poetry, song, dance and craft, revealed remnants of an ancient folk civilisation. This culture, which stretched far back to the dawn of Ulster was, Biggar saw, not moribund but vital; with his help the Glens traditions, once so full of colour, vibrancy, fluttering banners and pipe music, came alive again.

At a meeting in Cushendall in February 1904 a group of Glen folk devised the idea of a grand Feis, which would not only promote language and literature but also aid languishing rural industries and local crafts. Biggar, like others such as Horace Plunkett and Standish O’Grady, saw the revival of rural crafts as central to ensuring not only the preservation of native traditions but also a sense of national, and regional identity. From the outset Biggar saw arts and crafts as a central element of the structure of the Feis, stating clearly in early 1904 that ‘a prominent place will be given to peasant industries’. Biggar hoped that the production of furniture, toys, textiles and other handicrafts by Glens folk would evoke ‘old times, old customs, old ways’. These Glens crafts were expressly designed as souvenirs and, as Biggar noted: “Sentiment is this encouraged in a healthy way, and at the same time full advantage is taken of it for the primary object of the industry.” Making toys, and more importantly instructing children in such activities, would for Biggar breathe life into the ancient proverb ‘mould the boy and make the man; make the man and build the nation.’

In organising the ‘Arts & Industrial Exhibition’, Biggar was assisted by the recently established Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction (DATI) in Dublin. The principal contribution of the DATI was a display of ‘Russian peasant toys’, which its representatives had purchased at the ‘Russian Village’ at the 1900 Paris Exposition. They had been especially impressed by the Russian revival of toy making, especially the collection of wooden toys made at Sergiev Posad, shown in Kostantin Korovin and Alexsandr Golovin’s l’izba des koustary building. The DATI saw the relevance of the ‘kustarni or cottage industries…carried on in every part of Russia’ to Irish cottage industries and clearly hoped to encourage similar enterprises in Ireland by exhibiting an exemplary and commercially successful model, which had brought international attention and acclaim to Russia in 1900. At the Feis the press noted that the ‘toys manufactured by Russian peasant…were placed in a prominent place in the hall and the eagerness in which they were studied and compared with the local display showed that the experiment was a happy one’. Biggar’s young protégé, the artist John Campbell, even created in his cover design of An Clár (programme) showing a pipe-playing figure engulfed in a sinuous swirl of music and lines, a Celtic equivalent of the Art Nouveau, style moderne and Folk Revivalism of the Russian Mir iskusstva.

The practical outcome of the ‘Arts & Industrial Exihibition’ was primarily to focus attention on local arts and crafts expertises, which were already producing similar folk art designs for toys to the Russian kustar. Barbara McDonnell’s ‘Cushendall toy-making industry’ had been founded in 1901, to teach first of all drawing and carving, and then toy-making, to local children. As her workshops swelled, the quality of products also developed, from stuffed toys to models made from cigar boxes to replicas of antique furniture for dolls’ houses. In 1903, with Biggar’s assistance, Frances Riddell opened a toy and furniture-making enterprise, the ‘Irish Peasant Home Industries’, in Ballycastle in a shop called An Tuirne Beag (The Spinning Wheel). Like Biggar, the people at DATI were acutely aware of the relationship between rural arts and crafts and economic and social regeneration, and they were keen to promote workshops such as those of the Glens at the upcoming St Louis World’s Fair of 1904, which they perceived could act as the Paris 1900 Exposition had for Russia, as a world’s stage, bring Glens industry and artistry to international attention. Both the McDonnell and Riddell workshops showed in the ‘Irish Village’ at the St Louis fair, to much acclaim.

Although the Moscow-Moyle connection of the first show has been greatly undervalued, and remains an important chapter of Irish art history yet to be written, the arts and crafts exhibitions inaugurated at the first Feis have continued to be an integral element in its structure to the present day.

Adapted from Phoenix, E., Ó Cléireacháin, P., McAuley, E. & McSparran, N. (eds) (2005) Feis na nGleann: A Century of Gaelic Culture in the Antrim Glens. Feis na nGleann & Stair Uladh.