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What is a Fleadh Cheoil?

15th of March  2024 

Are you new to the world of Irish Traditional Music? It can all be a bit confusing. You may hear the word Fleadh Cheoil used in many contexts and it seems that everybody knows what they’re talking about except you. Here’s a guide to the history and feel of a Fleadh Cheoil. 


A Fleadh Cheoil translates simply into English, from Irish Gaelic, to mean Music Festival. However, it’s so much more than that. It's a mixture of competitions in various musical categories, sharing of culture and meeting new people.


It happens once a year with each country holding a Regional and Provincial round. In Britain, the country is divided into 4 Regions: Scotland, Northern, Midlands and London & Southern. Each branch is a member of one of these regions and they’re involved in everything to do with it. 


The Regional committees will either host their Fleadh Cheoil in one branch or they could move the event around each year. The 1st and 2nd of each category of the regional Fleadh will proceed onto the All-Britain Fleadh, which is the Provincial level (3rd place winners are dependent on their overall standard). The All-Britain moves from each region, so this year it’s in the Northern Region but next year it’ll be in the Midlands Region. It’s a great occasion when the All-Britain Fleadh comes to your region. 


It’s not just the competitors who come to the Fleadh each year, loads of people will attend to watch competitors with categories like Ceili bands bringing in the biggest crowds. Once the competition ends for the day, there are sessions and entertainment in the evening. This is a chance for people to meet with old friends, play some tunes or just relax and have a drink. 


On the surface it’s a championship, but it’s more than that. It’s a chance to exchange cultures, enjoy group music making and meet new people. 


What does Fleadh Cheoil na Breataine and Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann mean?

It translate to mean music festival in Britain and music festival in Ireland


Why is it called Provincial and Regional? 

The system is adopted from Ireland where this language is more commonly used instead of words like districts and national. 


What are the categories? 

You can check out all the categories and age ranges by clicking here. There are hundreds of categories of musical instruments, storytelling, dancing, anything that is an Irish cultural activity. 

What happens after the All-Britain Fleadh? 

Again, the 1st and 2nd proceed onto the All-Ireland Fleadh, which is essentially the world championship. Click here to read more. (3rd place is dependent)

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