By Angela Kelly BLAME it on the flashing feet of the Lord of the Dance himself Michael Flatley. Or, on the homely village charm of TV's resounding success Ballykissangel, which starred Tony Doyle, Stephen Tompkinson and Tina Kellegher. Whatever the reason, the Irish and Irish culture are suddenly enjoying a resurgence.

And there's a good chance that Bolton's 4,000-plus first generation Irish population - not to mention the 15,000 or so second and third generation - will be perfectly happy about this very traditional "green revolution."

For, as well as a boost to its culture and country, the move to all things Irish is reflected in a greater interest in its national dancing.

Farnworth-based Margaret Mullarkey, whose husband is from Ballyhaunis in County Mayo, definitely believes that Michael Flatley has much to answer for.

"Oh, yes," she stated, "youngsters in particular certainly think they can be like him, and in a very short time!"

Margaret organises Bolton Irish Dance Classes each week upstairs in the Balmoral Hotel in Bradshawgate in the town centre.

There each Wednesday, a group of youngsters aged from four to 17 years ("all girls at the moment - we could do with some boys") are taught the basics and intricacies of Irish dance at the bargain price of 50p a session.

"They are often children of Irish families who want to keep the dance going, or just youngsters who enjoy it. We can move them on to competition dancing if they like, but most just come along because it's fun."

Barbara Ahern is the qualified dance teacher who looks after the youngsters and the ceili and sets' session for adults which follows the children on Wednesday.

Youngsters who might want to start are recommended to just come along in a pair of gym shoes and comfortable clothing.

If they become keen, the next investment is probably a pair of special soft shoes at around £16. The really keen can move on to buying the "heavy" shoes, the famous tap shoes that give the distinctive sight and sound of Irish dancing. These can cost anything from £20 to £30.

Wintertime is when the classes will really start to get busy again. "Irish dancing is energetic, fun and great for burning off the calories," added Margaret.

"You do have to be fairly fit to take it up. And if you're not, you soon will be!"

To find out more about Bolton Irish Dance Classes for children and adults, contact Margaret Mullarkey on 01204-794036.

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