On Wednesday, as the city centre transforms itself for Hallowe’en, thousands of costumed revellers young and old will descend on the banks of the Foyle for what’s now become known as the biggest Hallowe’en event in Ireland.
For the thousands of carnival seekers it’s an event anticipated for months beforehand. For the people tasked with organising the massive shindig, the hard work starts long before the Autumn leaves start falling. One of those people is Derry City Council Events Planner Elaine Griffin who is one of the key workers cementing plans for the carnival programme behind the scenes at the council’s Strand Road offices.
This week, taking time out from a hectic schedule, Elaine explained some of the logistics behind what’s arguably the city’s biggest annual festival.
“Hallowe’en has evolved into what has become a landmark event for the city, and this year for example it will be celebrated over five days – no mean feat in organisational terms,” says Elaine. “You would be amazed how many people are involved in the event, covering every aspect from sourcing new and interesting entertainment acts, community workshops, health and safety, right through to the post-event clean-up.
“We start planning about six months in advance of the festival. Sharon Meenan from The North West Carnival Initiative does a lot of the groundwork in planning and delivering the creative element, deciding on themes and overseeing the many community groups and schools who get involved annually. Then we have support from every level of the council, working together over several months to ensure we live up to the high expectations of the public and to deliver a safe and family friendly event.”
Hallowe’en was first staged in Derry in 1986, when Derry City Council organised an outdoor music event in the Guildhall Square.
Since then the event has snowballed and now an average of 30,000 visitors, local and international, fill out hotel rooms and converge on the city’s streets every October 31.
That’s more than just an average party for Elaine and her colleagues to get to grips with.
“As events officer I’m involved in the development of the event from its initial concept to the final delivery on the ground. That means everything from budget planning to the organization of brochure delivery, props and performers on the night and much more.
It does mean being highly organized and dedicating a lot of time to each event, but it’s so rewarding when it all comes together having been involved at every level. I have to acknowledge the work of all the staff at the council though who put every effort into ensuring that these events run smoothly, because it really is a team effort, and everyone pulls together brilliantly.”
Elaine’s looking forward to everything included in this year’s carnival and while there’s a lot of paperwork involved in her role, there have also been a few photoshoots in the past too!
“I really look forward to the events, and Hallowe’en is always great fun when it all comes together – after all it is the city’s favourite annual event. Of course it’s a challenge, but every event brings its own set of challenges with it so it’s always a learning curve. And for one thing it certainly never gets boring.
I get to meet new people from every area, and I work with some fascinating and inspirational people from the weird and wonderful world of entertainment. For example this year I’ve been working with fashion supremo Wayne Hemingway, which has been amazing, and his input has been invaluable in some of the Hallowe’en events this year, especially the Catwalk Carnival.
I’ve been pictured on the front pages dressed as Santa up a lamppost in the Guildhall Square, and walking with a horse along the City Walls – you have to just be able to go with the flow and enjoy whatever the job throws at you!
For more information about this year’s Halloween Festival go to www.derrycity.gov.uk/halloween or follow all the fun on Facebook at www.facebook.com/banksofthefoylehalloweencarnival