Halloween celebrations for 2017 revealed

The Sollus Highland Dancers pictured at a previous Hallowe'en event in Derry. DER4414MC101
The Sollus Highland Dancers pictured at a previous Hallowe'en event in Derry. DER4414MC101
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Details about Derry’s forthcoming Hallowe’en 2017 celebrations have been revealed.

This year will see the festival taking place over four days leading up to the huge parade and fireworks display on the evening of Tuesday, October 31.

Awakening of the Walls will be returning for another year, while a wide range of activities for all ages across over 40 venues throughout the Derry City & Strabane District Council area being planned.

The Council are hoping to capitalise on the success of the 2016 festival, which saw 30,000 people taking part in the grand finale event and thousands more participating during the other events.

In a report brought before the Council’s Business & Culture Committee June meeting on Tuesday, Councillors were told the them for this year’s event is likely to be an extension of 2016’s ‘Out of this World!’ and is “currently being developed with local arts and cultural groups and aims to reflect a sense of place and occasion”.

The annual event will be supported by a major carnival creation programme from August to October this year, in partnership with internationally recognised carnival artists and local arts groups and mentors in partnership with communities and carnival service providers.

The Council said that it is hoped over 700 participants will be involved.

The report states that expected audiences for the parade are estimated at 35,000 for the parade and fireworks.

The fireworks display this year will include “additional bespoke and innovative pyro elements creating a unique spectacle event for audiences”.

Awakening the Walls will run on October 28, 29 and 30 from 5pm to 9pm. 
Activities for children and young people will include interactive storytelling, theatre performance, crafts, film screenings in a range of venues including the Guildhall, Alley Theatre, Tower Museum, Craft Village and Melvin Sports Centre among others.

A harvest market is also planned for Derry and Strabane linking to an Applefair in Castlederg on October 28, where cider making and tasting events to form part of the events along with a best apple cake in the world competition, scarecrow trail, music, street animation and dressing.

The total available budget for the Halloween festivities is £269,200, with the possibility of additional funding through the Arts Council Challenge.

The Council reports states: “Established over 30 years ago, by the people of Derry as a small community event, the Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival has developed to offer locals and visitors alike a unique and authentic experience.

“Still very much loved and owned by the people, the festival has grown to become one of the largest Hallowe’en Festivals in Europe and the largest in Ireland and the UK. Over the last four years Strabane has also developed a Hallowe’en programme which has grown year on year.

“In 2016, the Derry carnival enjoyed its biggest ever celebration with over 2,000 participants and over four days of programming.

“Overall the festival attracted audiences in excess of 75,000 across the city and district. Attendance and participation at all activities was up on previous years with over 4,386 attending activities in Strabane and 11,570 people attending events in the Guildhall.

“Over 30,000 people experienced the Awakening the Walls over three nights.

“Audience numbers were the highest yet recorded with over 30,000 attending the Carnival parade and fireworks in Derry and over 3,000 attending the fireworks in Strabane.”

Speaking at the meeting in the Guildhall, Chair of the Committee Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue said: “It sounds like a very exciting programme and if it matches last year’s we are in for a treat.”

Sinn Fein Colr. Brian McMahon questioned why Tourism NI could not contribute more funding towards the celebrations.

He said: “Given the fact that it is the biggest carnival in Europe and right across world, I can’t help thinking Tourism NI who do quite well out of this are only contributing £19,000 towards this.”

HE added that there had been some concerns Strabane Town itself had been a bit “bare” on Hallowe’en day and asked for this to be looked at.

SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly said he would “concur wholeheartedly” that Northern Ireland bodies could be contributing more “because this is something that is globally recognised”.

Colr. Reilly congratulated the Council officers for all the work they have put in over the years.

“Each year it gets bigger and better,” he added.

Independent Councillor Darren O’Reilly agreed, and called for consultation with disability and other groups to address minor inclusion and access issues experienced for people getting onto the City Walls for the Awakening of the Walls events.

Councillors endorsed a recommendation that they approve programming, financial and procurement
arrangements as set out in the report.