Written by Sarah Gorman
What do Lakeland Kayaks and Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann have in common? Why, Mullingar of course! Here at Lakeland Kayaks we are extremely proud to have the 2022 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann taking place in our home town of Mullingar from the 31st July to 7th of August.
Indeed, not only is Mullingar home to Lakeland Kayaks but it is also the home of the Fleadh. The very first Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann took place in Mullingar in 1951. This was the brainchild of a group of traditional musicians from County Westmeath and of representatives from the Thomas Street Pipers’ Club in Dublin. They met in Mullingar to discuss two ideas that were to significantly shape the future of traditional music in Ireland. First, they wished to form an organisation committed to the promotion and learning of traditional Irish music. Secondly, they wanted to found a festival dedicated to Irish traditional music, dance, and song.
The meeting in Mullingar certainly bore fruit. The inaugural committee of Cumann Ceoiltóirí na hÉireann was elected in October that same year. A few months later, the title of the organisation was changed to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, which is renowned today as a non-profit with local branches teaching Irish music, dance, and language throughout the world. Along with weekly classes, this is also a social group that allows musicians to join together and play simply for the love of the music. Anyone who wishes to come along and listen is always welcome and many of the local pubs here in Mullingar host traditional sessions on a regular basis.
As already noted, the inaugural Fleadh Cheoil was launched in Mullingar in May, 1951. While this event may not have attracted the crowds that the Fleadhanna Cheoil do in more recent times, it was, nonetheless, one of the most significant cultural events to take place in Mullingar.
These events provide a platform for traditional Irish musicians, dancers, and singers to perform and compete in front of an appreciative and supportive audience. In addition, they boost the popularity of traditional Irish music. The Fleadhanna Cheoil attract musicians from all over Ireland and abroad; you will find renowned musicians playing in the streets, so you never know who you might hear as you wander by!
With its history rooted in Mullingar, it should be no surprise that the 2022 Fleadh is known locally as ‘The Homecoming’! With only a few short months to go, the excitement here is mounting and the planning is in full swing. The organisers of the Fleadh are hoping to create a relaxed, festival type atmosphere in the town with an emphasis on street performances that everyone can enjoy. Given that the goal of the Fleadh is to promote Irish music, they have designated the main streets for traditional Irish music performances. This will allow any and all traditional musicians to join together as they wish and to share songs both with one another and with all those who would like to stop and listen. The streets of Mullingar should be busy, bustling, and filled with beautiful music! The entire team here at Lakeland Kayaks cannot wait to experience this for ourselves!
For a break for the little ones, or indeed for any of the bigger children among us, the Town Park should definitely be on the list of venues to visit. The Park will provide a wide variety of street entertainment for those who would like to pop in and take a peek. While the official line-up has yet to be revealed, organisers are hoping to include performances from comedians, dance troupes, magicians, and, of course, any traditional musicians who would like to play away from the main thoroughfares. There will also be food vendors and a variety of other stalls and attractions for people to browse. The aim is to encourage a family-friendly atmosphere throughout the Park and to keep that festival-like feel to the Fleadh.
Overall, it is expected that the Fleadh will attract an estimated 500,000 visitors to the area. For those of you that are unable to attend in person, keep an eye on your television guide! Performances from four nights of the Fleadh will be televised and, in addition, other acts and events will be streamed on social media. This will include concerts from the main stage in Blackhall, which will accommodate up an audience of up to 10,000. Competitions and concerts will also be held in the Mullingar Arts Centre on each day of the Fleadh. The Committee are striving to make this event as accessible as possible, not only in terms of viewing. They recognise that the Fleadh ought to be both physically and geographically accessible for visitors. Inclusivity is also important to the Committee and they hope that the 2022 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is inclusive, welcoming, and engaging for both members of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and for the wider public alike.
Given our own emphasis on nature and the outdoors, the team at Lakeland Kayaks are particularly delighted to note that organisers intend this event to be a ‘green’ fleadh in as much as it is possible. A bike sharing scheme, similar to those already in place in Dublin, will be put in place to cover the period of the Fleadh. While this will be a pilot scheme, we hope that, if it is successful, it may become a permanent fixture in Mullingar town. This would not only be a convenient form of transport for those wishing to travel around the town but would also be a wonderful way to encourage people to get out and about in the fresh air. There are also several bike rental companies operating in the area, should anyone wish to hire their own for the week. The organisers are working in conjunction with Westmeath County Council’s Environment Department concerning the best way to manage the event from an environmental point of view. In order to make the event more environmentally friendly, screens will be in place throughout the town with a schedule of events and their locations. There is also a dedicated Fleadh website which will carry information about the event. This is well worth checking out as the event draws nearer.
Of course, if you’re coming to Mullingar for the Fleadh we would love to see you! Our offices are based in Mullingar and our Showroom is close by. We’ve spoken to so many of you over the phone, via email, or through social media and we always welcome the opportunity to meet in person. We would be delighted to hear how our products are working for you, to answer any questions that you might have, and, as always, to hear how your own kayaking adventures are going. Our kayak rentals will also be in operation during the Fleadh so if your car is packed with musical instruments and you can’t find room for your own kayak, or if you just want a taster of the kayaking experience, we are here for you.
In the meantime, we are counting down the days until the 31st of July and the beginning of the 2022 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann! It has been a long wait for us; the Fleadh was originally due to take place in 2020 but, sadly, was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been a long wait for the competitors too and we would like to take the opportunity to wish all of them the very best of luck in their respective categories. As we leave the dark days of the pandemic behind us, we are delighted to be welcoming the Fleadh home this summer. Mullingar has a long and rich musical history and we cannot wait to hear all of the wonderful traditional music that is in store for us this July and August. Our Lakeland Kayaks team would like to say a very, very big thank you to the organisers and to all of the volunteers who have signed up to make this Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2022 a very special event for all of us.
For anyone looking for further information on the Fleadh, you can check out the following websites:
If you would like to check out our kayak rentals, this can be done here: