The event, run by the Finbarr Conway Academy, was the biggest feis this year.
This feis in Luton, now in its ninth year, was formerly the Conway- Lally Feis.
Recently both of the schools concerned decided to go forward as separate entities and the organisation of the feis remained with the re-titled Finbarr Conway Academy. Its popularity continues to be perennial and once again it attracted dancers from all over the UK, Ireland and from Holland and Germany.
Indeed, as if to underline its very wide geographical appeal, one of its championships – the U8 girls – had dancers from Ireland in the first three places.
There is no doubt that a great plus in attracting entries from all parts of Ireland and from Scotland is the proximity of Luton Airport.
Its traffic control tower can be seen from the venue. Another plus is the quality of the venue itself.
The pristine, recently refurbished Ashford High School is ideal for big feiseanna such as this one.
It has all the space and facilities that a large feis requires. Tiered theatre seating in the main championship hall was a bonus that the audience very much appreciated, as well as an adjoining breakout hall that was dedicated to presentation of awards.
Novice, primary and intermediate grades danced simultaneously on three floors in the gymnasium.
But success breeds success and even the capacity of this very large gym was a little challenged on day two. Most of the very young dancers, aged four upwards, are inevitably found in the grades hall or gym, and these age groups bring with them a higher proportion of family members – siblings, parents and even grandparents – who want to see how the wee un’s are progressing.
Parents who are new to Irish dancing can be seen here hugging each other whenever their child’s name is mentioned in the trophy or medals awards.
I have to say however, that the most uplifting display of parental emotion goes to the Thai mother of Prim Chandler who dashed forward to the podium to hug and embrace her daughter on hearing the announcement that she had won the U14 prelim championship. As was the case last year we had navigated to the venue by GPS.
I had forgotten to update the car sat nav device and once again we were directed into the nearby Butterfield Cemetery with the message, ‘You have reached your destination’. It was almost correct but not just yet.
Finally I should mention that in my view the main contributor to the popularity of the feis is the friendly and welcoming personality of its organiser.
Finbarr is Luton-born of Irish parents. His mother is from Scotstown, Co Monaghan and his father is from Kilfenora, Co. Clare. Finbarr endears himself to his audience by never failing to express his appreciation of their support.
I look forward to returning to Luton again in 2017.
For more photos from the feis, pick up a copy of the newspaper at your local newsagents.