John Egan at the tenth anniversary Finbarr Conway Academy Feis in Luton
They say that success breeds success, and if proof were needed the tenth anniversary feis organised by Finbarr Conway and team of dancers and parents from his academy of Irish dancing in Luton exceeded even the popularity it had gained in its previous nine years. Dancers were there in exceptional numbers from all over England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. There was also a sizeable sprinkling from mainland Europe and even from Australia.
It was good to see many familiar faces of dancers and their teachers who travelled over from Ireland, even if they mimicked an aspect of the Cheltenham Festival of racing by taking a generous slice of the silverware back across the Irish Sea. Indeed in most of the podium shots on this page at least one of the boxes was claimed by a dancer from Ireland.
And what, I ask myself, is a sure fired recipe for the success of a feis. The ingredients for that recipe are many and varied and are possibly known to most feis organisers, but only the few have the nouse and possibly the good fortune to be able to bring them all together before stirring them into the magic melting pot.
Those ingredients can include things like the calendar timing, accessibility and suitability of venue, competitive skills offered by the field of dancers, value for money in terms of entry fees and prizes, perception of adjudicator skills and fairness and timetabling during the event.+4
To some degree or other all of these issues will add to the overall atmosphere and enjoyment that dancers and family supporters will gain from their feis experience. Many of these issues are subjective but there is no doubt that great store is set by the expectations of the punters in their perceptions of the ability of the organisers to deliver an enjoyable experience. In the case of the Finbarr Conway Academy Feis all of the above ingredients were there and then some.
Luton Airport was just the puck of a sliotar away.
The pristine recently refurbished venue, Ashcroft High School, boasts all the facilities needed to comfortably stage the full range of novice, beginner, intermediate, preliminary and open championship events, with its spacious gym, its tiered theatre, and a breakout room for presentation of medals and trophies.
I don’t know if on the tenth anniversary of the feis it was a mere coincidence that there were ten adjudicators, but it was noteworthy that it enabled five of these to be devoted to deciding the outcome of the championships. On a personal note I can report that our car failed to start and the homeward journey seemed an unlikely prospect. But then a posse of the organising team came to our rescue and brought the ailing vehicle back to full health. With treatment like that we will definitely return to Luton in 2018 (DV).