Belfast Telegraph

How we gave Belfast the fright of the living dead

By Frances Burscough

I’ve done some crazy things in my time, but I think last Saturday just about takes the biscuit. I went on a sponsored walk.

Now you may think there’s nothing too unusual about that, until I tell you how I was dressed and then you’ll probably agree. You may even be horrified.

My outfit for the day consisted of a floor-length maxi skirt, which I’d ripped into shreds so it looked like something a post-apocalyptic bag-lady might wear; tights with multiple holes ripped in them like I’d been in a fight with a giant ferret; a blood-red blouse, also shredded, with a once-fashionably frilly jabot on the bodice which I’d torn strategically so it resembled entrails spilling from my chest and a cardigan with the sleeves hanging off, frayed and torn at the seams. And that was just the demure part of my elegant ensemble.

My hair was doused with talcum powder to make it look coarse and thick, to which I’d then added black mascara streaks from root to tip before backcombing the whole barmy barnet to within an inch of its natural life to give the impression of having been dragged through a hedge backwards, post rigor mortis.

Meanwhile, my face was caked with white powder to give a deathly ashen-tinge and I’d painted a thick black shadow around my eyes, hollowed-out-skull style. And the finishing touch that meant so much — blood stains dripping from my mouth and down my chin courtesy of Max Factor Lipfinity lip pen (model’s own).

Finally, my single solitary accessory (because less is more) was a plastic severed hand left over from a past Halloween party, which I had saved in the hope that one day it would come in useful. It did, as a pretend snack.

And that was it, my sartorial selection for the most bizarre event of the season — The Belfast City Centre Charity Zombie Shuffle, organised in aid of the Make a Wish Foundation and celebrating the annual Yellow Fever horror film festival.

The plan was to meet at the Cornmarket, then proceed through the city centre for an hour, finishing at The Black Box centre for an afternoon of gory movies. Now, as you can imagine, it all felt like a harmless jolly jape while I was in the secluded safety of my bedroom at home. The problem was that I then had to get into my car, drive 15 miles into Belfast, park up and then walk half a mile across town. Alone. And all at the busiest time of day, on the busiest day of the week.


So after brazenly ignoring much staring, pointing, laughing, horn-honking, cat-calling and car-swerving, I finally made it to the Cornmarket, to meet my fellow zombie revellers. Safety in numbers at last, I thought, even though every one of the hundred-strong participants had dressed up with more gore and guts on show than the entire cast of The Night of the Living Dead.

There was one guy dressed up as a surgeon, in full clinical mask and gown, a nun and a priest, a traffic cop, numerous cowboys, fellas in drag, schoolgirls, teachers, soldiers, policemen, doctors, nurses, a Canadian Mountie, a footballer, a few suited and booted businessmen, a lollypop lady, and an ice-cream vendor, all in elaborate costumes from different walks of life but with one thing in common — they were all covered in fake blood, dragging their limbs and groaning like the living dead.

As for the unsuspecting passers-by, who weren’t in on the joke, well their faces were priceless. Some looked genuinely alarmed until they noticed the charity collection buckets at either end of the slow motley procession. Some children hid their faces behind their hands, and others joined in, delighted and enthralled to see so many adults acting the goat in full public view.

As for me, well of course I rose (from the dead) to the occasion. A particularly memorable moment was when “we” decided to storm the salubrious surroundings of the Merchant Hotel en masse, to surprise their genteel diners into parting with a bit of loose change. Tragically, once I arrived in the posh marble lobby, groaning loudly and incoherently above the sound of the grand piano, I realised to my horror that no-one was following. They’d all, to a man, chickened out (thanks, guys) and I was there on my own like a prize plonker, whilst alarmed patrons froze mid-scone, until I was politely but firmly led to the door by a perplexed and unamused maitre d’.

If any of you were there, I humbly apologise. I didn’t mean to put you off your pastries. The end of the world isn’t nigh, the gates of Hell haven’t spilled open and I’m not on a mission to feast on your flesh, honest.

It was all for a very good cause, I swear,|officer ...

Belfast Telegraph


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