Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween! Bram Stoker Festival

Each year, Dublin celebrates one of its most influential (and adaptable) writers- Bram Stoker.  The city ramps up the chills for a full weekend of fun.  We saw a flyer with the highlights in early October, and when we saw the list of events (many of which were free!) we knew it was worth a look.

Many of the free events required pre-registration.  When we looked through the catalog of literary talks, haunted walks, and scary stalks movie screenings, many were already sold out.  An author talk about the enduring charm and legacy of the ghost story did stand out among the available (free) events, so we signed up.

The talk was scheduled for 5:30 that evening.  The schedule of events had listed several other all-day events like street theatre and street markets with the theme of the festival, so we decided to make a day of it.  We made a picnic dinner, wore some since clothes for the book talk, and walked to City Centre just after lunch.

Our first stop was to see what the flyer called, "Spine Chilling Sights & Sounds in the City."  There were two places where such chillers were to take place.  We were to apparently expect street performances, costumed characters, music, dancing, and buckets of blood.  When we got to the first such public square, we only saw the usual throng of tourists and shoppers.  There was someone dressed as a scary marionette posing for photos, but we couldn't decide if she was part of the official entertainment for just a street performer in a costume playing for tips.  One event down, not much Halloween...

We moved on to the Science Gallery at Trinity College.  This unique museum displays works of art inspired by science and research.  The theme of the current exhibit was "Grow Your Own."  Each piece was a glimpse at a possible future wherein humans have mastered genetics.  Our favorite exhibit was a series of genetic profiles taken from DNA on littered cigarette butts on the street.  The researcher (and artist) were able to glean a great deal about the litterbugs in question.  A 3-D model of the face of each person was built, showing a possible look at their ancestry, height, face shape, and even genetic predispositions for obesity and other diseases.  An interesting gallery, but we were still in search of Halloween frights...

The real fright came as we left the Gallery.  A heavy rain came over the city just as we needed to make our way to the next scary sights.  We walked almost a mile in the driving rain and wind before ducking in to a coffee shop to warm up and dry off.  We had scampered past another of the "Spine Chilling..." sight locations to see one tent with a few guys in capes standing around smoking cigarettes.  Nice.  On our way to the literary talk, we had seen on the Bram Stoker Festival flyer a flea market.  This market happens every Saturday, and we enjoyed looking at the records, antiques, and vintage clothing, but we still didn't get much in the way of spooky Halloween spirit.

The ghost story talk was given in another art gallery on the North side of the city.  We walked up O'Connell Street and had our picnic supper outside the gallery.  The talk was entertaining, informative, and well-attended.  Two modern ghost story writers and a moderator had a great discussion about what makes us drawn to these stories.  The authors read from and discussed their most recent books, and finished with questions from the audience.

After the talk, we walked home, happy with our literary talk but just a bit disappointed with the Halloweeny nature of the rest of the day's events.  Maybe if we had gone up at night?  Maybe next year.

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