Luton international Irish dancing competition is saved by funeral firm

An international Irish dancing competition in Luton has been saved by a local funeral firm.

By Lynn Hughes
Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 10:11 am
Pictured are Malachy White, Finbarr Conway and Shannon Grant
Pictured are Malachy White, Finbarr Conway and Shannon Grant

Neville Funerals, one of the region’s longest standing family-owned businesses, stepped in to provide vital support for the traditional Feis - or dancing competition - which returned after a two-year break due to the pandemic but had needed extra financial support from local sponsors.

As the competition had been launched by Neville Group employee, Finbarr Conway, in 2008, Neville Funerals thought it critical to help ensure its future.

The competition went ahead as planned, at the Queen Elizabeth School in Luton with over 550 dancers of all ages from around the globe competing in over 200 competitions, 24 of which were Finbarr Conway Academy Feis Championship titles.

Finbarr has worked for Neville Funeral’s sister company, Neville Special Projects, since 2020, originally joining as a temp in August 2020 and becoming a full-time member of the team in November of the same year.

For more than 21 years, he has been running his Academy of Irish Dancing in Luton, alongside his role as a Special Projects Administrator.

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Finbarr said: “We are extremely grateful to Neville Funerals for stepping forward and sponsoring our Feis. Thanks to their generosity, and other local sponsors, we were able to ensure, amongst other things, that awards, trophies and sashes were presented to all participants and winners.

“I first started dancing when I was four years old and haven’t looked back since. I set up the school so I could share my passion with others and hopefully help them achieve their goals.”

Since the pandemic, the number of applicants for the 2022 Feis had dropped by half.

“It was heart breaking to see the effects of the pandemic on the schools, with both students and teachers dropping out. We are hoping now that in-person events have returned, and we have the support of our wonderful sponsors, we can build the Irish dancing community once again.”

Charmian Alexander, Director at Neville Funerals said: “Many of our employees enjoy other pursuits outside of the business, and Finbarr Conway is no exception.”

Neville Funerals is an independent family company that has been serving the community in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire and the surrounding areas for more than 140 years.