The retail rush is already on for pumpkins, monkey nuts and toffee apples, which can only mean one thing - the countdown is well and truly underway for the city’s favourite festival – the Banks of the Foyle Hallowe’en Carnival.
And none are more excited than the members of the Off the Streets Initiative, who have signed up for some creepy costume workshops with the North West Carnival Initiative in preparation for the 2012 Carnival of Light Parade, which this year promises to be bigger and more boo-rilliant than ever.
There are approximately 16 young people taking part in the festival as well as staff, and there’s a real buzz about the place as the kids put the final touches to their Carnival creations. According to Project Co-Ordinator with the group, Catherine O’Donnell , the workshops have proved to be a spooktacular success.
“The children are aged between 11-13 and all come from the outer North and Greater Shantallow areas. Then we have two staff - Aileen Mellon and Leila Scheinpflug - working with the kids to develop their ideas, in conjunction with the help we’re getting from Derry City Council and the North West Carnival Initiative,” she explained.
“We’re currently working on our costumes, and have decided on a Pirate and Viking theme. It’s been great because we’ve got a head start on some of the costumes thanks to the carnival initiative and their artistic curator Kevin O’Neill, who was working with the children this week.
“They’re coming up with some great ideas for hair, make-up and props and are really getting involved in the creative process. We’ll be making things like lanterns, swords, and other spooky accessories to go with the costumes, and the children are all very enthusiastic - we’re really getting into the spirit of the carnival.”
While the emphasis is of course on fun, there is also a serious side to the creepy creativity, which will shine a light on the talents of the young people in the area, who don’t always get the opportunity to show off their skills.
“Schemes like these are vital for getting local communities involved and giving young people alternatives to the anti-social activities that can be a temptation when there is a lack of options for them,” Catherine stressed.
“We work very closely with our young people to get them involved in the local community and off the streets. It’s so important for the bigger picture as these children are being allowed to contribute to their city and take pride in representing their area.
“It boosts their confidence and gives them the chance to show what a positive impact they can have on their area if given the opportunity. They share a real sense of belonging and purpose - this is something they can give back to the city, and something to make their parents proud.
“It also raises the profile of the area which is brilliant. We had a lot of negative publicity over the summer due to the anti-social behaviour of a small number of individuals, which created the wrong type of headlines for us.
“This provides the young people with the chance to show what they are really capable of. We have so much good work going on within the community and our young people aren’t given the publicity or credit for their hard work and positive achievements.”
And with a busy year ahead in 2013, the group is all set to do its bit for the City of Culture, as Catherine highlighted.
“Events such as this are vital in the run up to 2013, and the group is getting really excited about what the year ahead holds for the city.
“These children are positive, vibrant and full of life, and have so much to contribute. Events such as the Halloween carnival give them the chance to show what they are capable of when given the chance, and we intend to grab that opportunity with both hands.”
For more information about the 2012 Carnival of Light Parade and the full Hallowe’en programme, go to www.derrycity.gov.uk/halloween, follow all the fun on Facebook at www.facebook.com/banksofthefoylehalloweencarnival, or telephone: 71 365151.