Londonderry is preparing to cast a spell over visitors during the largest Halloween celebration ever staged in the British isles.
The Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival finale will be played out in spectacular fashion, with dozens of themed events taking place at indoor and outdoor venues across the city.
A macabre makeover is taking place in preparations for 30,000 visitors in fancy dress swooping on the city centre to watch the Halloween carnival parade and fireworks display.
Pubs, clubs and venues are bracing themselves for the annual onslaught of zombies, vampires and apparitions, with celebrations expected to continue into the small hours.
Mayor, councillor Kevin Campbell, said there was a real air of expectation ahead of the main celebrations at Derry’s signature festival tonight.
“The city is still buzzing after the launch of our City of Culture programme last week, and the positive momentum is carrying through to our favourite festival,” he said.
“This year’s celebration promises to be bigger and better than ever, and it gives us all the opportunity to join together and extend a warm welcome to our city, and showcase our famous craic and hospitality at its best.”
Prior to the parade, the Dragon Safari will see prehistoric beings roaming through St Columb’s Park this afternoon.
In the city centre, local bands will conduct soundchecks this morning ahead of a marathon eight-hour jam at the open air stage in Waterloo Place.
The concert kicks off at 2pm today.
Among the other highlights dotted across the city are a day of Halloween themed fun at An Culturlann and a Creepy Quest at Creggan Country Park.
The Gasyard centre is also hosting a Family Funday, while Witches and Wizards are flying in to Foyle Valley Railway to relay stories for three- to five-year-olds at lunch-time, before older children can hear spine-tingling ghostly tales at the Workhouse Museum from 3pm.
St Columb’s Hall has been transformed into a Hall of Horrors with events such as How To Look Good Wicked and Tea and Tales taking place there.
The Bruce Airhead Show at 6pm on Waterloo Place will be followed at 7pm by the Halloween Carnival of Light procession departing from Derry City Council offices on the Strand Road.
The parade will work its way along the Strand Road, City Hotel, Harbour Square Roundabout, Queen’s Quay and back to the Council offices, before the annual fireworks display at 8pm.
The mayor urged everyone to have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.
He said: “Although the focus is as always on having fun, I would urge everyone to enjoy themselves responsibly and maintain the city’s reputation as a safe, family friendly place to visit.”
Traffic and travel guide
To accommodate the crowds and the carnival parade, several road and lane closures will come into effect from 6pm tonight. Roads affected will include the Strand Road, Queen’s Quay and Foyle Embankment.
Alternative diversion routes will be available during these times.
St Columb’s Road will be closed to traffic from 3pm, except to drivers who have been issued with passes.
A limited number of Blue Badge holders will also be able to access the road for the provision of disabled parking.
The car park on Queen’s Quay will also be closed to the public today, except for disabled car parking.
Foyle Street Car Park will be closed to the public all day, while parking bays at Foyleside car parks will remain open until 11.30pm and Quayside until 10.30pm.
On the Waterside, the shale hockey pitch at St Columb’s Park Leisure Centre will be made available for cars to park during the fireworks and will close at 10pm.
For safety reasons, the number of spectators on the Peace Bridge will be limited and it may be necessary to close the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists for a period from 5.30pm once a safe capacity has been reached.
Limavady’s Halloween Extravaganza will be centred at the Roemill Road Recreation Grounds from 6pm tonight. The annual fireworks take place at the site, with entertainment, music and prizes for the best fancy dress costumes.
There will be fireworks over Melvin Playing Fields at 8pm, preceded by fire-eaters and live music in the town centre from 6pm. Prior to this there will be zombie cage soccer from 1pm to 5pm. Q102 roadshow will be there throughout the afternoon.