Alterations to Spraoi’s summer calendar, including the repositioning of the traditional parade to the afternoon of Sunday, 5th July, could prove a tremendous boost to this year’s local tourism revenue, according to an industry expert.
Speaking to the Munster Express, Gary Breen of Failte South East Tourism said Spraoi’s expansion of their summer programme to include a ‘mini festival’ in the People’s Park on the first weekend of July would frame the city’s summer tourist season. “Although the first week in July is traditionally a quiet one for local tourism, Spraoi’s initiative will kickstart the season. Then there’ll be the highlight of the summer during the August Bank Holiday weekend and finally Spraoi are hoping to end the summer by lending their weight to another event.”
Amidst concern throughout the city and county that the economic downturn and budgetary cutbacks would have a profoundly adverse effect on this year’s Spraoi festival, the company last week announced an additional weekend of family-orientated arts activities called ‘Spraoi in the Park’ on the first weekend in July. This will include the hugely popular Spraoi Parade, set to take place on the afternoon of Sunday, 5th July.
“The move by the company is a very creative way to grow the festival”, Mr Breen continued. “We still anticipate large numbers converging on the city for the August festival but this new July event will offer visitors to Waterford something extra.”
This is the first time in over 10 years that Spraoi will stage a parade in daylight. “In some respects the change in format is a response to the public feedback which we received over the past few years, in that the late start to the parade and fireworks makes attendance difficult for families with very young children”, Spraoi Director TV Honan commented. “As well, a night-time parade tends to require something of a darker theme but this year our creative team will get to work with a completely different palette.” The 5th July parade will commence at the People’s Park and progressing up Lombard Street, down The Mall and along Catherine Street, back to the Park.
Previous Spraoi parade’s have attracted estimated crowds of 50,000 onto the city’s quays so local businesses will no doubt be hoping that this new initiative will provide a much-needed boost to the city centre’s flagging commercial sector. However the July event is not intended as a second Spraoi festival, as the funding is not in place to programme another full weekend. Instead, a smaller series of complimentary events will be staged in the Park over the three days leading up to the parade. “This is something new for the public; we want it, like the Spraoi Festival, to be family orientated. The idea is for people to come to the park, join in the activities on offer and we’ll be adding a few special touches as well”, Spraoi’s Programme Director, Miriam Dunne, noted.
Meanwhile the familiar Spraoi Festival will go ahead on the August Bank Holiday weekend, promising its customary three-day line-up of music and street theatre on the streets of Waterford. One of the most popular international acts to have ever appeared at Spraoi is expected to return and a fireworks shoot on the Quay will round off proceedings on Sunday night. Given the absence of the parade, the usual Sunday programme will be markedly different this year, most likely with events commencing in the afternoon and running until the fireworks shoot at 9pm.
Despite cuts in the company’s Arts Council funding this year, Mr Honan said Spraoi was nonetheless optimistic that the same number of high calibre acts would be brought in for the August festival as had been in previous years. This, however, would be subject to sufficient commercial sponsorship rolling in over the coming weeks.
“Our aim is to have exactly the same model in place as we have done with previous festivals and we are hopeful that we will achieve this”, Mr Honan continued. “The programming team have been keen to shake things up and extend the programme of summer activities for some time now. It is just unfortunate that the financial roof fell in on the country the same year we decided to do it.”
The Spraoi Festival and the first ‘Spraoi In The Park’ will be complemented by a series of events in John Robert’s Square at weekends from mid-June to mid-August presented by Waterford City Council. “We have worked closely with Spraoi on this. Once we knew their plans we wanted to make our contribution and we aim to bring hope and some novelty to John Robert’s Square on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer season,” commented Paddy Power, Director of Services, Waterford City Council.
“We have opted to take a progressive approach to the festival”, Mr Honan added. “These are very difficult times but with our co-funders Waterford City Council, The Arts Council, Failte Ireland and sponsors I believe we will lift hearts and minds with two great events and a good bit of luck!”