Derry City & Strabane - Why Derry has the winning festival formula for Hallowe’en!




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Why Derry has the winning festival formula for Hallowe’en!

22 October 2015

With just over a week to go until Hallowe’en it’s all hands on deck as hundreds of eager participants make the final preparations for Derry’s spectacular Rise of the River Gods street carnival.

The North West Carnival Initiative have been working closely with Derry City and Strabane District Council over the years in delivering the biggest Hallowe’en extravaganza in the country – and the organisers are still celebrating after being named Best Hallowe’en Destination in the World by top publication USA today.

The event first captured the public’s imagination back in 1986 when Derry City Council first staged live music for the event and almost 30 years on, even the cold October climate has failed to dampen the spirits of the thousands who faithfully attend each year.
So what’s the secret? Well according to Council’s Festivals and Events Manager Karan Leonard it’s all about the enthusiastic audience participation.

 “I think what sets our celebration apart is the sheer scale of the event and the fact that it has so much support from people of all ages right across the city. People don’t just turn up on the night, they spend months and weeks planning costumes and participating in workshops, making props and rehearsing routines. 

“Derry is a young and creative city and we love to perform, so the carnival attracts hundreds from our community organisations and schools who want to actually be a part of the show on the night. We have a huge cast of dancers, musicians and performers who come together specially for this production.”
Jim Collins is Chairman of the North West Carnival Initiative which has been working on the Carnival for many years. The curious collection of weird and wonderful props is the result of a creative collaboration between local artists and crafts people – and literally anything can turn up on the big night.

“Over the years we have seen a massive increase in the number, skills and creativity of local artists and groups coming together to create the Halloween street carnival which has grown out of the people of the city taking to the streets in costume en masse in the 80s,” Jim explains.

“It’s been brilliant to see groups developing their levels of participation over the years and Halloween is a shining example of how support for local participation programmes, skills and resource development can enhance our city’s events.

“While we are delighted to welcome carnival partners from further afield, it’s brilliant that the vast majority of our carnival is now locally produced with support from the Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. This year we are working with Greater Shantallow Community Arts, In Your Space, Bluebell Arts Project, Ibuki Taiko and Kabalkat, as well as a host of dance groups, schools, youth and community groups. With over 30 local groups taking part, it’s unfortunately too many to mention here, but the young people, parents, teachers and leaders that we work with all do a wonderful job and we’re very lucky with them. We’re very excited, as are the River Gods!”

To see the work of the North West Carnival Initiative for yourself, the spectacular Rise of the River Gods parade will be taking place at 7pm on Saturday October 31, leaving the carpark of the Derry City and Strabane District Council Office and making its way up the Strand Road before returning along the Quay. The parade will be followed by a fearsome Fireworks Finale over the River Foyle at 8pm.
For more information on the full programme of events taking place across Derry and Strabane this Hallowe’en go to