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Saturday 25 March 2017

Festival without fences is Suir-fire hit with fans

Colin Bartley

ALL the city was a stage. And the men and women were the players.

Record numbers flocked to the Spraoi festival in Waterford over the weekend.

Gardai and organisers estimated that 100,000 people attended the 'festival without fences' on the banks of the River Suir in Ireland's oldest city.

That is up nearly 30,000 on the average attendance.

The festival, now in its 18th year, has ballooned from its origins in 1993 when it was a one-off event for an afternoon.

TV Honan, a founding member and current director of Spraoi, said there was never an intention to hold an all-out festival, but that things change.

Now the emphasis of the festival is to show the heritage of the city, he said. And this is done by holding some of the main events in some of the city's medieval ruins.

The festival had nine main stages, including one in the restored ruin of Blackfriars Abbey. Other historic venues used were John Roberts Square, Christchurch Cathedral and Wyse Park.

John Roberts Square was the hub of all the activities. From here the festival spread around the cobbled streets of the Viking city as cars were kept to the quays.

"There is no tickets, no pay in," Mr Honan said. "This festival is owned by the people of Waterford. Over 250 volunteers make sure the festival happens."

And the festival provided a major boost to the local economy, with every restaurant table, hotel room and bar stool full for the weekend.

"It was noticeable how many more families attended together this year," Mr Honan added. "It also seems to be younger crowds. It has been our intention to make it much more family orientated."

The 100,000 saw performers from 11 countries perform alongside local and national acts. Over the three days 200 free music, art, theatre and street performances took part around the centre of the city.

Sproai traditionally signs off with a bang and this year was no different, with 40,000 witnessing the spectacular 20-minute fireworks display.

Irish Independent

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