Féile Iorras was set up in 1996 as a result of an initiative by Mayo County Council Arts office. The first festival was organized in conjunction with Duchas Cill Dara and was held at the end of August 1996.
One of the main aims in setting up the Féile was to promote integration and understanding between the people of Erris and various communities throughout the world. This is done by inviting groups from around the world to take part in the festival and to maximize contact between the groups and the people of Erris during the Féile.
The festival focused from the start on the development of indigenous arts in the Erris Region via the organization of various children's workshops and later on master class sessions for adults. The development of arts through the medium of the Irish language is also a primary focus.
Since it's inception groups from Italy, Finland, Britanny, Canada, Malawai, Cornwall, Bolivia, Peru, Sweden, Wales, Poland, Romania, Spain, Greece, Estonia and Scotland have been hosted at the Féile. Irish performers have included The Saw Doctors, Don Baker, St Laurence O'Toole Pipe band, Mairtin O'Connor, Frankie Gavin, Iarla O'Lionaird, De Jimbre, Emer Mayock and many others.
Féile Iorras have also provided a platform for local Erris performers and players.
The festival encompasses all forms of Folk Arts including traditional dancing (with regional costumes), Piping, traditional music, (ranging from Andean to Cajun and Samba) exhibitions of arts and crafts, traditional music master classes as well as workshops in the visual arts and sculpture.
The range of activities in the festival vary from year to year but the emphasis has always been on quality acts and the development of community involvement. Féile Iorras have delivered many events of wonderful entertainment also.
Highlights include the Saw Doctors gig in 1999, Mairitn O'Connor and Frankie Gavin in 1998, Don Baker in 2000, the open air carnival in Belmullet in 2000 and the night that the Chalemonic Morris dance troupe drew a crowd of over 100 people in the tiny community of Rossport to see them dance on the street in the setting sun.
In 1996 and 1997 the festival was held at the end of August but since then the Féile has been held at the end of July and continues to engage and present international and local acts of the highest quality.
There is something for everyone at this festival every year and it is an eclectic mix of traditional and exotic. Féile Iorrais is international in its scope but community based in its presentation and covers a myriad of art forms from music and cinema to poetry and theatre.
Féile Iorrais has been hosted in recent years in a brand new Arts Centre in Belmullet - Áras Inis Gluaire - which opened its doors on April 21st 2007