Belfast Telegraph

Lanterns of peace: Children reach across divide in dazzling Halloween parade

By Michelle Smyth

Hundreds of children from across the divide have come together to shine a light on cross-community relations in north Belfast with the annual Halloween Lantern Parade.

The Waterworks Park on the Antrim Road was bursting with colour and rhythm as the hundreds of children, carrying their lanterns, filed in after a parade from the former Crumlin Road jail — and not a Parades Commission ruling in sight.

The spectacular event, which is in its third year, is now one of the city's largest cross-community festivals and last night attracted more than 6,000 people from across the community in an area traditionally seen as bitterly divided.

A giant witch’s head danced up the Antrim Road amid groups of drummers, fire-eaters and children holding lanterns in every colour imaginable.

Sparkling fairies with green hair frolicked among the trees of the fairylight-bedecked park and jumped out at children who squealed with delight.

A green-faced woman dancing about the park in a sparkly silver jumpsuit said to an enthralled child whose face was painted like a skeleton: “Oooh you look a bit scary,” — she was a little bit unnerving herself.

Kids dressed in Halloween costumes were invited to make a wish and write it on a star which was then placed on a ‘Magic Wishing Tree’ in the middle of the park.

The atmosphere of magic and wonderment continued on up the park as a man wearing a horse’s head sat outside a tent singing and playing music with a band.

A giant troll cut a rather foreboding figure and had something to say to everyone who crossed the bridge across the river that runs through the park.

The shimmering fairy-lights and the variety of arty acts taking place all around the park was reminiscent of New York's Central Park where these sort of events are an almost daily occurrence. It was easy to forget that it was actually all taking place in north Belfast.

Organised by New Lodge Arts, the event was created in partnership with young people from 22 community centres and 13 schools across north Belfast.

Pink tribute act Alecia Karr further thrilled those who braved the October climes by performing on a floating stage on the Waterworks pond.

The night was rounded off by a vibrant fireworks display which was the perfect finale for a truly magical night in north Belfast.

Adrienne Reilly, a local human rights worker, who attended the event with her daughter commended the organisers and everyone who took part.

“This event is really good for the area.

“There are a lot of things organised in the city centre and Botanic area but it's great that this is happening in Belfast.

“The acts are all fantastic. It is great that creativity, arts and music has brought both sides of the community together in an area that some people could describe as divided.

“It has been so well organised with plenty of stewards and police, it made me feel safe enough to let my teenager wander off with her friends,” she said.

Cecilia Heron from New Lodge Arts said organisers were overwhelmed by the “best turnout to the event yet”. “We had around 6,000 people in the Waterworks park,” she said.

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