Macnas brings magic to streets of Dublin on Halloween night

‘Great British Bake Off’ judge Paul Hollywood among thousands who attended parade

Tens of thousands of people turned out in Dublin on Monday night as street performance group Macnas marked Halloween by bringing its special brand of magic to the city’s streets.

The group’s newest show – Savage Grace – came to the capital having won extravagant praise from all those who had seen it in Macnas’s backyard of Galway the previous night.

The parade – which Macnas describes as a "restless ballad, a deliriously dark and delicious waltz between love and loss" – brought the Bram Stoker Festival to a fitting close, with the hyperbole matched by the show.

Henry Street was lined five deep an hour before the scheduled start of the parade which started from Moore Street and wound its way through the north inner city on a mild evening – unlike last year when it was cold, wet and dreary.


A cosmopolitan crowd, many of them in Halloween regalia for the night that was in it, gathered for what seemed liked a St Patrick’s Day parade, only with better weather.

New generation of performers

It is 30 years since Macnas was founded and it is yet to run short of volunteers or ideas. The torch has been passed through a new generation of performers, the Macnas Young Ensemble, who brought a riot of exuberance to the streets.

Hundreds participated in a parade which featured as a theme the raven, a bird associated with Irish mythology, and with the poem by Edgar Allan Poe. The parade was led by a stiltwalker dressed as a raven leading a black bear on all fours.

It was followed by a sinister-looking black raven wheeled on a cart and a colourful float carrying a band of musicians playing under what looked like giant toadstools.

The 15ft wild woman Danu and her spirit wolf weaved their way through the crowd, sending frightened children scurrying towards their parents. Bringing up the rear was a crescent moon.

Giant-sized phantasmagoric creatures were not the only things haunting the streets of Dublin on Halloween night.

Bête noire

As the Macnas parade was preparing to walk down Moore Street, Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood was walking up it in the company of a film crew and Irish celebrity chef Clodagh McKenna.

As they walked, she explained to him that it was the Irish who invented Halloween based on the old Celtic festival of Samhain.

His presence created nearly as much fuss as Macnas. Hollywood is a bête noire to many fans of the wildly popular BBC show as he is the only presenter who has defected to Channel 4 which will show it from next year much to the consternation of a lot of its traditional viewers.

Hollywood was in Dublin filming for his City Bakes television series for The Food Network. In particular he was in town to hone in one of Ireland's best kept culinary secrets – the soda bread.

“It is impressive. It looks fantastic,” he said of the parade. “Dublin seems to be kicking tonight.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times