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Fenians Festival

Fenians Festival 2019 presents -  O'Reilly's Escape - commemorating the life and works of John Boyle O'Reilly.

The inaugural Fenians Festival, held in January 2018, was an outstanding success particularly with Irish immigrant families, young children, descendants of the original Hougoumont Fenians and the local Fremantle community. 

We are proud to now present Fenians Festival 2019 - O'Reilly's Escape from 22nd to 24th February 2019. This is an opportunity to further commemorate and honour one of the most famous of the Hougoumont Fenians - John Boyle O'Reilly - who escaped custody in February 1869, hid in the sand dunes near Australind until he escaped on the whaling ship 'Gazelle' bound for the US where he become the editor of the Boston Pilot newspaper and advocated for human rights for the marginalised including African Americans, Jewish and Chinese people. He also argued against the destruction of Native American culture through the westward expansion.

John Boyle O'Reilly never forgot his friends back in Fremantle and became the central architect of an audacious plan to rescue them by 'crowd-funding' the purchase and commission of the whaling ship 'Catalpa' which sailed to Fremantle from New Bedford and rescued the remaining six Fenian prisoners. This 'great escape' created headlines around the world and put the global spotlight on the little known colony in Western Australia.

Most importantly for Western Australia, John Boyle O'Reilly wrote 'Moondyne' which is believed to be the first novel published about Western Australia in 1880 and is an early chronicle of Aboriginal and settlor culture of that time.

 We are delighted to invite you to join us to honour the life and works of John Boyle O'Reilly.

Festival Program:

Music: The opening concert features Irish music legend Sharon Shannon in concert with Susan 0'Neill at the John Curtin College of the Arts Theatre. 

The closing event features a Gaelic Gumbo concert on the lawns of Kidogo Arthouse with Lucky Ocean, The Zydecats, Fiona Rea and Tommy O'Brien.

Family day activities: the WA Maritime Museum will host a full day of free activities for families including model boat building, story telling, a shamrack trail, irish dancing displays and children's film sessions. The is will be followed by a Ceili dance close by within the Maritime Precinct.

Literature: Reading O'Reilly's novel Moondyne. This is an all day public reading of the entire novel written by John Boyle O'Reilly about Western Australia and published in Boston in 1890. It will be  read at various historic locations throughout Fremantle. 

Who we are: Fenians Fremantle and Freedom (FFFInc) is an incorporated association established by a group of passionate and committed individuals whose purpose is to honour the Fenians, their arrival in and departure from Fremantle, and the impact their lives had on Irish, Australian and US culture and history; and to celebrate their lives through art, literature, history, music, dance and film events and festivals.

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