The year that rocked Irish dancing: BBC show shows families too scared to speak out about ‘feis-fixing’

A series of text messages leaked last October revealed demands that dancers at competitions be awarded by judges, sometimes in return for sexual favors.

Documentary filmmaker Gillian Callan had spent months filming behind the scenes with young dancers when the global Feis-fixing scandal broke.

A series of text messages leaked last October revealed demands that dancers at competitions be awarded by judges, sometimes in return for sexual favors.

Despite the trust Gillian had built within the Irish dance community, no one wanted to address the allegations on camera. American dancer and TikTok star Owen Luebbers, whose name was mentioned in the leaked messages, finally agreed to speak out.

A few weeks ago, the BBC in Belfast also fought against an injunction from the Supreme Court to stop broadcasting the three-part series.

Gillian Callan

Gillian, who had almost completed filming the series when the scandal engulfed judges and teachers linked to leading Irish dance association An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG), decided to investigate the claims after speaking to the broadcaster. No judge or teacher has been found guilty of any wrongdoing.

She says after months of immersing herself in the sport, she was shocked when the allegations surfaced, but continued for the sake of the children who dedicate their lives to dance.

“I was shocked because I had seen how hard these kids worked and because I felt for them in their wins and losses. I celebrated and mourned with them on those competition days.

“To suddenly understand that they might not be judged fairly when they go on stage, that felt so wrong to me.

“I have family and friends who have sometimes said, ‘Just leave it out,’ because it’s been a really difficult year, but I felt really motivated that these dancers deserve better than what CLRG is currently offering them, and I had the feeling that it had to be that way.” exclaimed.”

The scandal erupted when Irish Independent journalist Ellen Coyne received a series of text messages between teachers, judges and parents asking her to honor certain dancers.

Her story opened the door to tales of competition rigging, with one mother comparing Irish dancing to the mafia.

There were dozens of texts, ranging from “Do what you can” to “Isn’t it time to come into my room” and often included the numbers and names of the competing children.

Owen Luebbers

Leo Varadkar called for an investigation and said there was a risk of damage to Ireland’s reputation as a result of the corruption allegations. The CLRG initially suspended 12 people and initiated disciplinary hearings against more than 40 people earlier this year, but lifted the suspensions after a court challenge. Changes were promised for 2024.

Gillian says behind the scenes people have talked about the politics surrounding the sport, but she has never heard allegations of cheating. And when the story broke, almost no one wanted to say anything.

“I have had long conversations with everyone who was filmed in 2022, but they have chosen not to talk about cheating,” she adds.

“It’s a really difficult world. It’s a very small world, but for everyone in it it’s very big. It wasn’t a shock that people didn’t want to talk.”

Owen Luebbers, a current world champion, initially wanted to speak anonymously but eventually agreed to appear on camera with his sister Cassidy. Her best result was a third place at the World Championships and she now wonders if that was deserved.

“I don’t like the idea of ​​that fear,” says Gillian.

“Whenever I realized that people like Owen and his family were very afraid to talk, it was only after many conversations with them that they decided to be brave and get involved in the fight because it was the right thing to do and they could do it .” You see, the time had come.

“The messages were out there. The problem was already in the public consciousness and it was a matter of making people really understand what it was about.

“Owen’s story has two layers because he can think about the fraudulent text messages because his name appears in them. He can explain what that felt like as a dancer, the pain he felt and the betrayal he felt.”

BBC boss Mary McKeagney added: “There was an attempt at an injunction which the BBC defended in the Supreme Court and won, and we were very confident that we had done the right thing and the public interest issue in that case and this one “The series was pretty overwhelming as well as the judge.” I agreed with it.”

  • The Year that Rocked Irish Dancing continues tomorrow at 10.40pm on BBC One.


Nytimepost.com is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@nytimepost.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button