Monday, 23rd July 2018
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Michael Garland,

bizBoost Chair,

Waterford Business Group

Our Showcase Weekend!

It has to be one of the most eagerly anticipated weekends of the year. The annual “Spraoi Bank Holiday in August”, as we all now call it.

The 2017 three-day event was even more special this year, as we were celebrating the 25th Birthday, of this festival of street music and entertainment. An event that, in all honesty has probably grown to such an extent, that those originators who came up with the idea, are pinching themselves very hard.

Who could have imagined that from such a small acorn, a whole forest would grow?

Spraoi 25, has brought to Waterford City, brand new international acts and a plethora of exciting, innovative and extraordinary home-grown talent. Year on year we see this festival “Reinvent” the concept of street entertainment. This production seems as fresh as ever. It is an amazing formula, has not become stale under any circumstance. You certainly don’t hear people saying this is just the “Same old, same old!”

This was my 16th Spraoi, since relocating to Waterford City from Scotland. Having come from an events background, covering venues such as Wembley Stadium and Arena, also The Business Design Centre, I know just how challenging and difficult it is to keep an event relevant.

Hats off to the team, some would say army, of staff and volunteers who keep this Waterford treasure rolling along. Not only do they deliver annually, on the last weekend in August, but they are now even packing attendances in, at other festival in far flung corners of Europe. Maybe one year Edinburgh City will open its eyes and invite our SPRAOI to attend the Fringe? Now that would be worth visiting “Auld Reekie” for!

Despite a wee bit of warm rain on Sunday, the weather was excellent for wandering around this oldest of Ireland’s cities. It was great to see that so many of our visitors were exploring Waterford’s wee narrow streets, for the first time. They would turn a corner and there in front of them would be another performance area. We really are blessed with wondrous ancient architecture, Spraoi blending in so well, with its almost chaotic choreographed stage shows.

To many, the weekend is of course bookended by the parade and fireworks display. It would appear that Uncle Tom Cobley and his extended family were in attendance. There is something truly mesmerising about late night fireworks. The myriad of psychedelic colours, ear splitting loud bangs, pops, whizzes and whooshes, exhilarate our very essence. We all love a grand finale to a festival and Spraoi has this down to a fine art.

Of course the whole event needs sponsors and our support, the donating public. As with “ALL things Arty”, there is a huge squeeze on funding for such projects and festivals. The annual struggle, to get just enough to cover costs will always be a difficult uphill task! Funding is forthcoming from various tax payers’ resources, but alas, more and more is being channelled, yes you’ve guessed correctly, away from Waterford!

Once again we are, proportionately, at the very bottom of the Giving Tree, when it comes to supporting our Waterford arts. Local Authorities are being squeezed year on year. Have no doubt that Government pressure will force constraints, come the annual budgetary months of November and December. Those Councils, who wish to continue funding The Arts at the same levels, will be “Encouraged” to find these costs from direct increases in local commercial rates and the local property tax. The jungles drums are already tapping out a beat!

Government is at pains to tell us that “The Arts” are high on their agenda and at every local level they apparently matter a great deal. Yet, the opposite is true when fiscal policy dictates that they be adequately funded. The funding pinch will happen in 2018, as the current Government try to “Buy” our votes for the next general election, looming on the horizon.

Waterford City and County manages to incorporate many, many festivals into the calendar year. In fact we are just as busy as other cities, including Galway.

Spraoi works, because we all feel we’re part of the festival. We feel like we “OWN” a part of “OUR” festival, roll on the next 25 years.


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