Plans are now under way for an extended 2018 Hallowe’en festival in Derry & Strabane after it was confirmed that over 90,000 people took part in the celebrations last year.
In Derry, the 31st annual festival in 2017 enjoyed its biggest ever celebration with over 87,000 participants over four days of programming, while Strabane also saw a significant uplift in the numbers.
Aideen McCarter, Head of Culture at Derry and Strabane Council told the Business & Culture Committee this week that they were now looking at extending the festival beyond the traditional parade and fireworks finale on October 31 into early November.
The setting up of a new Hallowe’en planning group, meanwhile, was endorsed by the committee.
Speaking about the festival Aideen McCarter said: “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. Overall the festival attracted audiences in excess of 90,000.
“Over 40,000 people experienced the ‘Awakening the Walls’ over three nights. Audience numbers were the highest yet recorded with over 40,000 attending the Carnival Parade and fireworks in Derry and over 3,000 attending the fireworks in Strabane.”
She added: “Despite Hallowe’en night falling on a Tuesday, the occupancy rates were well above the target (88 per cent) attracting visitors from across the world including, Norway, USA, Russia, Hawaii, China, Canada, India, Asia, Japan, Sweden, UK and Europe.”
The new Hallowe’en planning group will be led by council officers and will include representatives from Visit Derry, Tourism NI, Tourism Ireland, the Arts and Culture Co Design group, carnival and community groups.
“With Hallowe’en falling on Wednesday, October 31, in 2018, this will provide a perfect opportunity to look at this option of extending the festival to Saturday, November 3,” she said.
Endorsing the recommendations, Sinn Fein Councillor Mickey Cooper said: “The planning group makes sense because the scale of this is obviously increasing year on year,” he said. Colr. Cooper also welcomed the addition of community groups among the make up of this.
Independent Councillor Darren O’Reilly praised council staff for going above and beyond to make sure the festival was a success. He added that it was also encouraging to see more local businesses getting involved.
SDLP Colr. Martin Reilly said: “It’s a tribute to the hard work of this council to develop this festival over the decades, and also the people of this city who are the ones who have really made this Hallowe’en festival the internationally-renowned event it is now.” He also suggested that the council look at incorporating local ghost stories into this year’s programme.
Chair of the Committee, Sinn Fein Colr. Patricia Logue said: “It is great to see now this is a recognised as an international standard event. The community events that were put on too were excellent.”
DUP Colr. Graham Warke said the festival “seems to get bigger and better every year.” ast year.