Shandon is a district in Cork where the Samhain parade takes place. The inaugural Dragon of Shandon parade was held in 2006. It began as a street parade celebration of Samhain and creative collaboration between artists and communities. The parade has become a popular event among locals and tourists. Every year, thousands of people accompany the Dragon as it travels between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Most participants are costumed as underworld creatures.
The Dragon is the centrepiece of each parade. This is a 36ft giant puppet made entirely of tape and animated by 12 puppeteers. The Dragon of Shandon parade is a nighttime event which makes it especially striking and spectacular. The animators walk the Dragon through the moonlit streets of Cork along with an array of lanterns, illuminated props and all kinds of bizarre characters which create a spooky yet festive atmosphere.
In 2013, Cork Community Art Link (the main producer of the festival) decided to develop a parade into a more sustainable and inclusive community event. In order to accommodate the numbers wishing to participate and engage, the Dragon of Shandon expanded to become a three-day festival.
The parade still remains the main highlight, closing the festival on Samhain/Halloween night. But now there are much more opportunities for people of all ages to get involved. The festival features performances by local artists, workshops, live music, film screenings, and other activities designed to showcase local talent and encourage collaboration between local groups and organizations, artists and event managers.
The Dragon of Shandon festival and parade present a blend of ancient Gaelic traditions of Samhain and more modern Halloween customs. It’s one of the most anticipated events in Cork’s cultural calendar.
Photo by Virginia Kelleher