Saturday 20 January 2018

Keep on rockin' in a Spraoi world

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

The month started on a high with the arrival of the Tall Ships along the Suir Estuary in Ireland's oldest city and it looks set to end on a similar note.

The Waterford Spraoi 2011 International Street Arts Festival will round the month off nicely for under-pressure tourism chiefs, who are already rubbing their hands at the estimated €30m economic boost from the Tall Ships 2011 races alone.

Yesterday's balmy weather lured the locals from their homes and workplaces for an early wander through the city streets on the warm-up day of the festival.

There was a healthy mix of Waterford accents with French, Spanish and English thrown in for good measure.

The Waterford Gypsy Jazz Ensemble and Urban Canvas kicked off the party from 3pm on the John Roberts Square Stage.

The sounds travelled through the side streets off City Square where the atmosphere was on fire -- quite literally in one case -- as 'Frank the Friendly Fire Thrower' was entertaining passers-by. Festival director TV Honan has been in the thick of the action since the City Square, the Cathedral Square, the quays and the People's Park began their transformation to entertainment venues. "One of the strengths of the festival is that the locals love it and embrace it so much so the visitors can get a genuine sense of Waterford. The people have a great sense of ownership with the festival," he said.

The Sprog 2011 -- pre-Spraoi festival for children and their families -- was a good move by organisers to keep everyone happy.

For the past five days children have enjoyed free workshops, storytelling and puppet shows in galleries, dances studios and theatre venues around the city.

Young Waterford singer Katie Kim is one act that locals are raving about and she is making strides in her career. Katie will play the courthouse stage tomorrow at 6.45pm.

Before the main acts took to the stage, families were entertained on the streets yesterday where "Professor Plunger" gave a glimpse into his world of bizarre inventions, such as the fire-proof marshmallow and the automatic cucumber peeler.

Children were also part of the street performances, with one drummer boy, Luke McGrath (8), making his dad, Richie, and four-year-old sister Caidhla proud.

Luke donned a "Spraoi drums" t-shirt with his pals before putting on a show at the William Vincent Wallace Plaza.

French tourists were just as amused by the souvenir shops on the quays as the free entertainment. They eyed up the menu for French restaurant 'L'atmosphere' on the quays.

A sandwich board told of how the eatery had won the 'Best Atmosphere Restaurant 2011' award.

But even a three-course early bird meal with a glass of wine for €20 didn't tempt the tourists, who instead opted to dine in a traditional pub nearby where locals were drinking pints of Murphy's and mopping up plates of fresh fish and chips on the street outside.

While Spraoi boasts that over 99pc of the hundreds of events it organises are free, be prepared to be stopped by some street entertainers with their cap in hand.

There are also "Gimm€5" signs throughout the city and the Spraoi team are asking people who can to "please give €5 to collectors".

Irish Independent

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