Capital Wallyfest bids to beat record


Crowds of "Wallys" are set to take over Dublin this weekend in a bid to break a world record and take a title from Cork.

The character is from the children’s Where’s Wally?  books and is deceptively hard to find, despite his distinctive red-and-white striped attire.

More than 2,500 people donned his trademark bobble cap and thick-rimmed glasses during a successful world record attempt in Cork last week, and Dubliners have the chance to break that record at 6pm today and tomorrow in Merrion Square.

Festival organiser Conor McCarthy said he expects to sell all the costumes – which are €12 online and €15 on the day – in aid of the Africa Aware Charity. A photo of those involved in the record attempt will appear in Monday’s Irish Times.

The attempts are part of the Street Performance World Championship that takes place in Dublin this weekend.

Finalists include The Mighty Gareth, whose show consists of magic, fire eating, chainsaw juggling and sword-swallowing. “The chainsaw juggling and the sword-swallowing are the most challenging,” he said.

The former computer operator – who preferred not to give his real name but used to freelance setting-up spreadsheets and file systems for businesses - learned his trade in Covent Garden watching street performers.

When he was 19 he picked up some juggling skills and magic tricks, and first used them when he ran out of cash at the Edinburgh festival. That was 24 years ago, and he now supports his family performing full-time from tips.

“I hope this weekend we get one sunny day,” he said. “We’re all really amazing - and we need crowds.”

Chadd Deitz, best known as Wacky Chad for his extreme pogo stick feats, makes about 70 per cent of his income in the summer months at festivals like these. “You really have to make it a lifestyle. You don’t get paid to practise, and there’s a lot of downtime and investing in your show that a lot of people don’t see,” he said.

Other acts include the world’s smallest strongman, the world champion sword-swallower and last year’s winner, Irish magician Jack Wise.

The championship has grown from 26,000 attendees in its first year to an event that can expect 200,000 this year. The former title sponsor, AIB, had to drop out this year for obvious reasons, forcing the organisers to get creative.

“We had to scale back some parts of the festival . . . but we’ve added things like the world record so that the entertainment at the festival hasn’t changed at all,” McCarthy said.

“It is one of those things of quality over quantity,” he said. “We put an awful lot of work into making sure these guys are just the best we could find.”