22 Sep 2023

Zombies, dinosaurs and drones - only in the City of Bones!

It’s been many months in the planning – but the curtain has finally been raised on the Derry Halloween programme for this year, with plenty of haunting highlights to keep everyone entertained from October 28th – 31st.

This year’s programme is coming down with activities for all ages, from spooky ghost tours, creepy arts and crafts, haunted houses and carnival craic, not to mention an international zombie conference and N. Ireland’s very first attack of the drones!

Central to the programme is the Awakening the Walled City Trail, which this year illuminates the city centre, taking in locations from the Guildhall Square and Shipquay Street to Bishop Street and the Diamond. Features include fire performance, aerial displays, live music and the haunting ‘King of Bones’ Halloween procession headed by the sinister skeletal frame of Walter DeBurgh, which will weave its way through the darkened streets. Dynamic drummers Spark will be blazing a trail along Shipquay Street this year, so keep an eye out for their dazzling displays.

When you’ve braved the trail, then take to the historic City Walls to find out more about some of the city’s most spine-chilling spots on the Spooky Ghost Tours, running each evening from Thursday October 26th, and right through until Monday evening.

Launching the programme today, Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Patricia Logue, said she was looking forward to getting into the Halloween spirit. “I am delighted to report that the Derry Halloween programme lives up to all expectations, with so many things to see and do over the course of the festival. This is what we’re famous for, and this year there’s a fantastic range of activities for Halloween fans of all ages.

“As we approach October the anticipation is really starting to build and over the next few weeks I’m looking forward to seeing it all come together as we prepare to welcome visitors from all over the world to the City of Bones. I just want to remind everyone that it’s time to start thinking about those costumes and planning the ultimate Halloween experience by checking out all that’s happening on the app or online.”

Some fearsome family fun is on the cards, with lots of activities for little terrors throughout the programme. Embark on a Jurassic adventure with the Roar Roar Dinosaurs who will be taking over the Guildhall this year for some prehistoric pandemonium. Check out the Creepy Critters Kids Farm, or visit one of the many local venues hosting arts and crafts workshops and story-telling sessions.

Start the festivities early on Halloween day by joining the Trick or Treat Trail, which ends in the Trick or Treat Disco in the Guildhall from 4pm – 6pm.

For those who take a more academic approach to terror, a Global Zombie Studies Symposium will welcome a mass horde of international zombie scholars to Ulster University’s Derry campus for a deep dive into Zombie culture, a first for the city and the university.

Music lovers will be delighted that there are some ghostly gigs taking place this year, with the After Dark Music Trail, and on Saturday October 28th immerse yourself in the haunting harmonies of the Candlelight Orchestra in the atmospheric setting of St Columb’s Cathedral.

Or dare to enter the Black Hall and discover the evil that lies within, as St Columb’s Hall is taken over by malevolent spirits seeking revenge.

Halloween night itself is a spectacle not to be missed, as thousands of revellers take to the streets for an unforgettable festival finale involving hundreds of local participants. The Carnival Parade is a massive gathering of performers from schools, performing arts groups, community organisations and sports clubs, who have all worked together led by the North West Carnival Initiative, to create a magical display of characters, props and costumes.

The parade weaves its way through the ‘City of Bones’ with its curious cast of Samhain characters casting its spell over the crowds. As the final performers pass by, all eyes will turn to St Columb’s Park across the River Foyle, when the City of Bones morphs into the City of Drones, and for the first time a swarm of 100 drones take to the sky for a thrilling aerial display. When the drones depart it’s time for the skies to ignite, as the traditional fireworks display lights up the river bringing the four-day extravaganza to a spectacular end. Though for many it’s just the start of a great night out at one of the many local venues who will be keeping the party going into the small hours.

The Halloween Festival is led by Derry City and Strabane District Council with support from Tourism N. Ireland, and  joined the Mayor for the programme launch today.

Ciaran Doherty, Head of Regions and Investment at Tourism NI, said: “Tourism NI is delighted to be once again supporting the Derry Halloween event under its International Tourism Events Fund 2023. This festival sets Derry- Londonderry firmly as `Home of Halloween’, highlighting the Celtic origins of Halloween and the city’s rich artistic, historical, cultural and architectural offering. The programme this year continues to offer bespoke and quirky events with wide appeal to key tourism markets, increasing international visitor footfall outside of peak season. The festival is projected to attract more than 115,000 visitors, creating some 11,000 bed nights with an economic benefit to Northern Ireland of more than £4.2m.”

You can find the Derry Halloween programme online now at derryhalloween.com or download the Derry Halloween app for all the latest updates.