The Big Scream Festival is back in Dublin’s northeast inner city, with an eight-day Halloween programme this year that signals a further return of social activity in the capital.
The festival began several years ago in response to increasing concerns about the lack of outlets for young people in the run-up to Halloween and ensuing problems with the stockpiling of tyres and other materials for large, anti-social bonfires. There were also concerns about alcohol and drugs being consumed at the latter unregulated events.
“We wanted to divert the young people away from that and also provide something for everyone to get involved in,” said festival chairman Peter O’Connor.
“It’s about listening to the young people, seeing what they want and if it can’t be done, explaining that to them. And in fairness the young people are brilliant. They have some great ideas, but you have to listen to them and communicate with them, so they feel part of it, not ignored.
“If we can get the young kids now – the six-, seven-, eight- and nine-year-olds – to these events, make it part of what Halloween means to them, then when they become 13, 14, maybe the tyre collecting and bonfire making won’t be so attractive.
"Everybody pulls together, works together, it works out great. We have Dublin City Council, the gardaí, the schools, the senior citizens, new communities, local businesses – everyone is involved."
Boxing Olympians Kellie Harrington and Emmet Brennan were on hand in Mountjoy Square on Sunday to open this year's festival, which was all but cancelled last year, with most events online only.
“You couldn’t really do anything. So at least this year we have the option of outdoors and that’s where most events will be,” said Mr O’Connor.
It was "impossible to put a value" on a "normal, bright, happy day" such as that on Sunday, after the "heavy impact" Covid had had, said Noel Wardick, chief executive of the Dublin City Community Co-operative.
“It has really heavily impacted people, with the lockdowns, the loss of work, the lack of space, overcrowding. It has been traumatic. We just know, from a mental health perspective events like this are really important to lift people.
“This event has grown into a key event in the local social calendar. To have it cancelled last year, it was very hard on families.”
Dracula – aka David Herlihy – said he was "very proud" to be back in the streets where his creator, Bram Stoker, had spent his teenage years. "He was living in Buckingham Street but he went to school in Parnell Square. Every day he walked through the inner city all of those years. You know, I come to Ireland every year on my holidays because these streets are where I feel most at home."
Among those most enthusiastic about the week ahead were Darla Harris (4), Lexy Hopkins (9), Lacey O'Neill (10), Kendall O'Neill (6), Harper O'Neill (9), and Isabella Byrne (8), who were all queuing for facepainting. All like dressing up and sweets, and seeing their friends after dark.
“It’s a bit like Christmas. You get sweets instead of presents, and go out in the night with your friends,” said Lacey. “The Big Scream is great because they organise lots of fun activities for us.”
Daily events will culminate next weekend with a two-day "creep carnival" in the grounds of O'Connell's School on the North Circular Road, along with a parade of little vampires.
Among other events will be fancy-dress competitions, spooky dance and music workshops, a Halloween fairy-garden aimed at younger children, arts classes for adults, singalongs held in senior citizens’ complexes, cultural walking tours, and entertainment on the Royal Canal Greenway on Halloween night.
Further details can be found at www.bigscream.ie