Teen 'buzzing' after west Belfast festival performance of club classic

By Tori Watson

A teenager from north Belfast said he was "buzzing" after playing a club classic to thousands of dance-anthem fans during Belfast's Féile Dance Night.

The event took place in the Falls Park on Monday night.

Thomas McAuley, who is 17-years-old and has autism, stepped on stage and played Robert Miles' Children to a packed crowd of around 10,000 concert goers.

A clip from the performance has gone viral on social media notching up hundreds of thousands of views.

Mum, Michelle Armstrong, told UTV Thomas has had a love of music from a very young age.

She explained that when Thomas was 11, his uncle moved to New Zealand and left a piano for his nephew.

"Thomas started using it and it wasn't long before he was writing his own songs," said Ms Armstrong.

"He's autistic so music is a real release for him. When he has a bad day he'll play for hours and hours."

The young maestro, who is a big fan of Elton John and Freddie Mercury, is completely self taught and learns tunes by ear as he can't read music.

As for playing in front of a packed audience, Thomas took it in his stride.

He said: "Before I got on stage I was nervous, but when I sit in front of the piano and just let my hands go, the nerves go away and it brings me into the moment.

"I felt amazing when I was on the stage, I was buzzing, I couldn't stop looking up and seeing the thousands of people watching me. It blew me away but I've gained more experience and now I feel more confident about getting on the stage again."

His mum however "was shaking like a leaf" when she watched her talented son from behind the scenes.

"I was so nervous before he started but once he got up and going it was just amazing," said Michelle.

Thomas added: "I just love music, it allows me to express myself. I can't wait to do more shows and make a career out of it, as it's all I have ever wanted to do."

The Feile Dance Night took place on the evening when bonfires are traditionally lit in some areas to mark the start of internment - imprisonment without trial – which was introduced in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, in August 1971.

Support for the practice has waned in recent years, largely due to associated anti-social behaviour in areas where the bonfires are built.

Organisers of Féile an Phobail praised Monday's event as "diversionary" adding that it brought "young people off our streets away from the potential of unwanted and destructive bonfires".

“The big bonfires that have been an unwanted feature in this community again didn’t happen and that is a massive success."

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