Féile Housing – ‘the positive lens is more realistic’

By Darragh Nolan

‘Féile’ (noun, Irish) – festival.

‘Housing’ (noun, English) – 1. houses and flats considered collectively. 2. one of the most significant problems facing Irish society.

‘Féile Housing’? What could there possibly be to celebrate about housing in Ireland?

A unique event taking place in Galway city this weekend, Féile Housing aims to help tackle the housing crisis by bringing people together through the arts.

Across two days in Club Áras na nGael on Dominick Street, the festival hopes to raise awareness through music, poetry, open mics, discussion panels and community art projects.

‘Change needs hopefulness’

Festival Coordinator Aoife Welby says Féile Housing is about “stepping beyond the cycle of negativity” surrounding the housing crisis.

“Change needs hopefulness. You need to feel like you actually can make a difference.

“Problem solving is about informing yourself, asking what the problem is and how you can fix it. It’s positive and it’s rewarding.”

She says how people view housing and homes needs a rethink and that this “positive lens is more realistic”.

“I hope this reminds people of the idea of homes being lived in and being for shelter. Homes have become overly commodified.

“Féile Housing is about reframing how we feel about homes and what they mean to us. We can look beyond and think of how we want Ireland to be. Through the arts, people can imagine a different way, or even remember an Ireland that was investing in its housing.

“Through positivity, more people feel inspired and want to get involved,” she says.

Logo for Féile Housing
via Féile Housing on Instagram.


Aoife says the inspiration for Féile Housing came from her own difficult experiences during “the build-up of the housing emergency”.

“Trying to rent on Daft.ie and seeing there were no properties available, it was grim. I considered leaving the country.

“I had a conversation with Brigid Mae Power, who is a wonderful Galway-based musician. We saw the arts as something to encourage people to attend”.

Cue the rounding up of a committee of volunteers and enter Féile Housing.

“I asked musicians, artists, speakers and community groups if they’d be interested in something like this”.

The response from each and every one? “Yeah, sign me up”. The likes of Adrian Crowley, Peter Broderick and Kathleen Loughnane will play along with Brigid Mae Power and more.

Opening event

Inspiration for Féile Housing was also drawn from lecturer and author Dr Rory Hearne. Aoife says that listening to his podcast and reading his book provided some of the foundation for the festival.

“Reading Gaffs gave me the impetus and the inspiration and it’s just really uplifting”.

Dr Rory Hearne speaking at the Féile Housing pre-festival event in Charlie Byrne's Bookshop on 5 March.
Dr Rory Hearne speaking alongside Aoife Welby at the Féile Housing pre-festival event in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop on 5 March. Credit: Aaron Coyne.

Hearne gave a talk to kick off the festival on 5 March in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop. Aoife says the talk provided a space for those in attendance to tell their stories and ask questions.

“It was uplifting, energetic and positive. There was a wonderful energy in the room. People there felt empowered and heard and had an opportunity to share their experiences of the housing crisis.

“Rory spoke the truth and spoke from the heart”.

Only the beginning

What comes after Féile Housing? Aoife hopes it can be “only the beginning” of a housing movement through the arts and a similar festival “in every county” could be on the cards.

“We’re open to generating solutions from the community. Moving forward, we hope it’s not just a one-off event.

“All going well, we’re in talks for a mini Féile Housing tour. People will be able to share their stories and we’ll have workshops, music and more panel discussions,” she says.

“First we have to reflect on this weekend, make a plan and gauge the appetite”.

Positive action

Féile Housing has also partnered with the Galway Simon Community to raise money for the local homelessness charity throughout the festival.

“We felt with record numbers of homeless people – and also the hidden homeless, like people couch surfing or having to move back in with their families – we felt it appropriate to take positive action and ask for donations,” Aoife says.

“It’s up to people on the day if they’d like to donate – all events are free”.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: