A time in Tilt­ing

Feile fes­ti­val con­nects and nur­tures a com­mu­nity’s Ir­ish her­itage

The Central Voice - - Front Page - KYLE GREENHAM

With the guid­ing light of a rus­tic lamp and an inflated buoy tied around his leg, Dan Mur­phy guides the crowd in full mum­mer at­tire through the dark and wind­ing road­ways of Tilt­ing.

As the crowd make their way to the next shed for more mu­sic, po­ems, drinks and laughs, the green, white and or­ange colours of Ire­land’s flag are hung high and flail­ing across the com­mu­nity.

The evening shed crawl is the sta­ple high­light of the Feile Tilt­ing Fes­ti­val, where par­tic­i­pants ven­ture from shed to shed, each one filled with gui­tars, ac­cor­dions, and a va­ri­ety of voices recit­ing old songs and per­form­ing orig­i­nal recita­tions.

No mat­ter how crowded the shed fills or how many drinks are chugged and clanked to­gether, a quiet voice emerg­ing from the crowd to re­cite a poem of the older times is enough to bring the en­tire room to an at­ten­tive si­lence. As a voice re­cites an orig­i­nal poem about the lo­cal hockey ri­val­ries of his child­hood, the crowd nods and laughs along as the same mem­o­ries re­turn to their minds.

Fes­ti­val com­mit­tee mem­ber Mau­reen Fo­ley says th­ese shed crawl mo­ments go to the very heart of the her­itage and sense of com­mu­nity the Feile fes­ti­val is in­tended to re­tain.

“There’s more to her­itage than the tan­gi­ble like build­ings, fences, and gar­dens,” said Fo­ley. “So much of our her­itage is in the in­tan­gi­ble – the oral sto­ries, the songs, they’re just as im­por­tant.

“This re­ally car­ries that flame on.”

Now in its ninth year, the Feile Tilt­ing Fes­ti­val is con­tin­u­ing work to pre­serve the Ir­ish her­itage and tra­di­tions of the Titling com­mu­nity. The fes­ti­val also brings in many from Ire­land, New­found­land and Labrador and be­yond to par­take in the cel­e­bra­tion and main­tain­ing of cul­ture.

The Tilt­ing com­mu­nity and fes­ti­val has earned such a rep­u­ta­tion for pre­serv­ing the tra­di­tions of the Ir­ish who set­tled there, that Fo­ley says many vis­i­tors call Tilt­ing more Ir­ish than Ire­land.

“I think that’s be­cause of, up un­til the late ’60s, ev­ery com­mu­nity here was pretty iso­lated,” Fo­ley said. “That meant our ac­cents, our sto­ries, our songs and tra­di­tions, the lit­tle things and say­ings, all of that cul­ture was easy to re­tain be­cause of the iso­la­tion.

“Peo­ple here are very proud of their her­itage, and rightly so.”

His­tory pre­served

The man of­ten called the driv­ing force of the fes­ti­val, Dan Mur­phy, says the fes­ti­val ini­tially came about through a part­ner­ship be­tween Ire­land and Tilt­ing. With help from the Ire­land Busi­ness Part­ner­ships and a fo­cus on com­mu­nity ra­dio, the fes­ti­val held its first run in the fall of 2009.

While it first cen­tred largely on for­mal events like ed­u­ca­tional work­shops, Mur­phy says with time the fes­ti­val has fo­cused more and more on in­for­mal cel­e­bra­tions like the shed crawl, dances, and pub­lic read­ings and recita­tions.

“Be­cause for so many peo­ple this is a way of com­ing home, the big thing is just to get to­gether and re­con­nect with friends and fam­ily,” said com­mit­tee mem­ber Wanda McGrath. “When we have vis­i­tors from Ire­land, they are of­ten so shocked to hear all th­ese songs of their child­hood that we also grew up with in Tilt­ing. It all re­ally brings peo­ple to­gether.”

Mur­phy and McGrath see the use of com­mu­nity ra­dio as an­other key com­po­nent to strength­en­ing the bond of the com­mu­nity. Largely run by Fred Camp­bell and Cyril Burke, the on­line and FM ra­dio show is broad­casted through­out the fes­ti­val, record­ing live events and re­play­ing recorded recita­tions and events from pre­vi­ous years.

“We have peo­ple who were with us nine years ago who are no longer here, but we have still have their voices,” said McGrath. “My grand­mother is no longer here, but we have her voice on the ra­dio telling us what it was like grow­ing up 90 years ago. And with­out com­mu­nity ra­dio, I don’t think we would have re­tained that.”

Dis­play­ing tal­ents

With lo­cal au­thors like Burke and Roy Dwyer and many mu­si­cians and per­form­ers, the fes­ti­val pro­vides a full show­case for lo­cal tal­ent and abil­ity.

Sev­enty-year-old Marie Bryan re­ceives con­tin­ual re­quests to per­form dur­ing the fes­ti­val. Af­ter the pass­ing of her late hus­band Wal­ter, Bryan has con­tin­ued his legacy by per­form­ing many of the tra­di­tional Ir­ish songs her hus­band was known for belt­ing at gath­er­ings and hol­i­days.

As Bryan trav­elled from shed to shed for the Fri­day night crawl, songs like “Alone in a Work­shop” were a sta­ple re­quest. Bryan says she proudly car­ries on th­ese songs in the same acapella and oral tra­di­tion of the fam­i­lies that first passed them down.

“My hus­band’s fa­ther and his aunt use to sing that song, and he was known to sing it af­ter,” she said. “When he got sick be­fore he died I be­gan singing some of his songs. Now, ev­ery­body al­ways asks me to sing that song.”

For Mur­phy, the dis­play of lo­cal tal­ent like Bryan’s is what con­tin­ues to as­tound him with each fes­ti­val run.

“The amount of tal­ent in Tilt­ing is amaz­ing,” he said. “We have many pub­lished au­thors, so many singers for such a small com­mu­nity.

“It’s a tes­ta­ment to the Ir­ish genes.”

Pass­ing the flame

Run­ning from Sept. 20-23, this was the first year the fes­ti­val was run with­out any gov­ern­ment fund­ing.

The com­mit­tee see their abil­ity to pull the fes­ti­val off on fundrais­ers and vol­un­teer sup­port alone a tes­ta­ment to the pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion of the Tilt­ing com­mu­nity.

As well, Fo­ley and McGrath have no­ticed a grow­ing sup­port from the younger gen­er­a­tion of the Tilt­ing area in re­cent years.

“You al­ways worry about pass­ing on that flame, and in the past few years we’ve no­ticed more younger peo­ple com­ing home and tak­ing part in things,” Fo­ley said. “I think af­ter a while young peo­ple see our gen­er­a­tion still keep­ing this up and they want to carry it on. They see how im­por­tant this has all be­come.”

By tak­ing a mod­ern spin in pre­serv­ing th­ese old tra­di­tions, the Tilt­ing com­mu­nity is hope­ful the Fiele fes­ti­val will con­tinue to deepen its roots into their own an­ces­try and her­itage, and that the bond of this small ru­ral com­mu­nity can only strengthen with each pass­ing run.

“We don’t re­al­ize how lucky we are to be in a ru­ral com­mu­nity, where val­ues are still there, where the mu­sic we lis­ten and the sto­ries we tell all come from within our own com­mu­nity,” said Mur­phy.

“The fes­ti­val is one of the flow­ers that blooms from that ru­ral life­style.”

More pho­tos can be found on­line at www.lportepi­lot.ca


Mau­reen, left, and Phil Fo­ley at their lo­cally-iconic shed in Tilt­ing. The shed is just one of four used dur­ing the Fri­day evening, Sept. 21, shed crawl of the Feile Tilt­ing Fes­ti­val.


Jim McGrath de­tails the his­tory of sig­nif­i­cance of the Sec­ond World War Amer­i­can radar base in Sandy Cove at the Tilt­ing slip­way. His speech in­cluded many anec­dotes and recorded his­tory of the re­la­tion­ships and ef­fects left on the Tilt­ing com­mu­nity from the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pres­ence. McGrath says his 25 years of lo­cal his­tory re­search must have cost him thou­sands of dol­lars in phone calls.


Cyril Burke han­dles the sound­board and hosts the com­mu­nity ra­dio pro­gram of­fered dur­ing the fes­ti­val. The ra­dio show plays both live events and recorded in­ter­views and per­for­mances from pre­vi­ous years of the fes­ti­val. The ser­vice was of­fered on FM ra­dio and through the web­site ryakuga.net.

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