Bram Stoker Festival 2012

Spooky, ghoulish goings-on, in the courtyards of Dublin Castle this bank holiday weekend… welcome to Bram Stoker’s imagination!

Ridley: The Bram Stoker festival was packed with things to do all weekend, from talks by Patricia Cornwell, writing workshops for children, plays and discussions on vampires. Christopher Lee was even awarded the Bram Stoker Gold Medal by the Philosophical society in Trinity College for his past role as Dracula. Bram, in his time at Trinity, was the president of this society.

So many of these events were ticket only and sold out quite quickly!

Latimer: We didn’t realise until too late that you had to have tickets for these events! So we really missed out. Derek Landy (author of Skulduggery was talking in one of the theatres) and there were lots of talks about vampires and vampirism in Trinity College (as Ridley says, Bram’s old Alma mater). There were a lot of interesting talks, and I was really disappointed that we didn’t get to go to them! 😦

Ridley: Well, no matter, we did manage to get tickets to one event at least!

We attended a night time, outdoor performance by the award winning street theatre company, Spraoi, in the Grand Courtyard of Dublin Castle. It was held there as Bram used to have a tedious desk job in one of the offices in the castle.

Latimer: I like to imagine Bram sitting at a desk inside the fantastic building that is Dublin Castle, daydreaming about Romania and vampires! I wonder did Dublin Castle spark off any dreams of Vlad’s castle? You can just picture vampire’s roaming the darkness of the Castle courtyards…

Our good friend Orbie joined us on this night of terror! She told me that there was a Bram Stoker App (made by the Science Gallery), that was devised for the festival. The App uses your phone GPS to tell you if you are in a hotspot for vampires or ghosts in Dublin. When it tells you, you are, you take a photo of the street or area, and a ghost will appear on your image! Or so Orbie told me… While we waited in the queue to go into the Castle courtyard… we tried to find some ghosts!

Then we got bored and the queue started moving, so we were swept inside and pretty much forgot until now about this App!

There was the chilling sound of people moaning like ghosts… The idea of the event was scenes and characters from Dracula. As the crowd moved forward under the arch into the courtyard, we were met with a massive moon display, against the backdrop of a dark and eerie courtyard. There was a man sitting within the moon, screaming and shouting…

We were pulled into a dark world, filled with vampires and ghouls. There were performers wandering around the cold courtyard, screaming and hissing.

As I was standing staring at an eerie display (wedding dresses hanging off a man-made tree) a ghoulish performer came up to me and started pulling at a plastic bag I was holding (it contained a proof copy of our book, which I was handing off to Ridley). I gave a nervous laugh, “you’re really getting into this” I said, there was absolutely no break in character, she raced off to pull at some of the other people (some of the crowd was also dressed up for the night as vampire’s and devils – she was particularly fascinated by these people, me in my north face jacket didn’t do much for her! Boring I guess!). 

As we walked from display-to-display, a rock band played Gothic sounding music under arches lit in an eerie green glow…

Vampire girls dressed in haunting white dresses stalked through the crowd. They came together at one display (a bench lit by a single street lamp) and performed a strange struggle – pulling out of a young girl dressed in white (eventually turning her into a vampire). I think these girls were Dracula’s vampire women!

As Orbie was talking her photos of this performance… this girl crept up behind her!

Naturally, I started snapping photos, THEN, I said “Orbie… behind you!” and she turned and jumped out of the way with a yelp, “JAYSUS”!

The crowd started to move then over to a macabre display of an autopsy table… two vampire ghouls were pulling at the body… Afterward I got some photos and it looks pretty creepy… The face… the face! Very scary!

All the while, a carriage was working its way through the crowd… the man inside looks like he could be someone important… eh? Well, yep, as it turns out, this guy was playing Bram Stoker…

He was heading towards this large wooden construct;

Once he reached the top he read to us, telling us to stay in the light, and out of darkness… away from the shadows…

He then sat back, writing at a typewriter.

Nearby, there was a display in the corner that looked important.. 

There was a massive coffin beside it… Dracula making his way from the port (as in the book… which for me is actually the Gary Oldman movie… I remember the port from the movie!)

Out of it came this massive skeleton! Dracula!

A performer dressed up as a more manageable-sized Dracula, made his way to Bram in his wooden tower, along with all the hissing vampire ladies!

Dracula looks like he’s smiling here, haha, going, ‘this is great! look at me Mammy!’ haha

Bram brought the night to an end, with a brief final reading from the book. It was pretty cool.

Ridley: The event was really interesting! (Though it was wet and absolutely freezing!! Our hands were red raw, time to buy some gloves, me thinks!).

Latimer: Yea! My hands felt like I’d stuck them in a -80 freezer! The pain traveled right up my arms! It was so cold! God bless my north face jacket (the best buy ever!) – it did save me from the cutting breeze, I just needed some gloves!

Well, afterward everyone made their way home, out of Bram Stoker’s dreams and back to reality… Which took the form of a woman dancing in the window of her apartment (which faced an entrance to Dublin Castle)! She had the lights on, the curtains pulled back and was going wild dancing. Everyone stood there laughing (of course she knew everyone could see!). Then she jumped away, leaving her two flatmates (who were sitting down on the couch) staring blankly out at us! 

The festival was fun, hopefully they’ll make it a yearly thing! It would be pretty interesting. We’ll hopefully be more prepared next year! 😦

Oíche Shamhna

Latimer: I love Halloween. There’s something about it. And it’s not that I do anything on Halloween- I sort of prefer not to. I like to just ‘be’ on Halloween. I might watch ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’- I might not.

 There’s something in the air; the world is a very beautiful place this time of year. The chilliness, the memories maybe, of my childhood, when I used to trick-or-treat; and the bonfire! Ah the bonfire, I haven’t been to one in literally years! They don’t do them anymore where I live. Health and safety reasons I’m sure (as I’ve been saying a lot lately).

It used to be that my brothers and sisters and their friends (all older than me at the time- well, still are, but at the time they were older children!)- they would go house to house collecting stuff to use to make the bonfire. And then there was always a dummy/puppet person made for the event. Okay, it sounds weird, but it’s more like the real Halloween- it was symbolic I think. The puppet person was put on the top of the bonfire. Making said puppet involved stuffing an old pair of pyjamas with newspaper and some balloons.

On Halloween night they’d set the whole thing alight. The balloons would pop and bang- very dramatic… that sounds weird to have a burning puppet, but there wasn’t anything macabre in it, even though it was Halloween.

 Now, I don’t remember exactly because I was very young at the time, but I’m SURE there was adult supervision involved in all of this- of course!

Ah, there was a sense of community that night… I have fond memories of finishing trick-or-treating and going to see the bonfire. Darkness, the light of a towering inferno of flames, spinning tires… I don’t know where the tires came from!- but I have a memory of them… anyway, point is, there was a feeling of ancient-ness to the affair. Because that was the old Samhain festival- a harvest, and a fire to keep away the evil spirits on a cold, dark night… that was the old idea, and in some ways when I was young it was more like that old festival than it is now.

I mean, everyone used to have bonfires back then. But now, I’m sure that isn’t the case. Who on earth would let someone have a huge bonfire… ah, it’s a pity. I miss that old ritual. There’s a real sense of the true Halloween in it.

I’m recalling it now as we head into another Halloween, which seems to get overlooked by Christmas. Well, it’s all commercialised to be-damned now… there’s something tacky and un-true about it. It’s just about dressing up… but I miss the old bonfires and the idea of celebrating an ancient festival. I wish it was more like that. I’m nostalgic for my youth I guess or more accurately, the youthful memory of Halloween I have.

There’s something ancient about the night, a connection to the past. It’s a festival of the Irish, Welsh and Scottish really. That’s where it comes from; so it’s a connection literally to my past. There’s certain things we do that never really transferred to other places with the rest of the concept. A small thing that I can think of is barmbrack. We have it every year in my house. Other people in Ireland do too. It’s a cake filled with raisins and fruit and then there’s a little gold (not real) ring hidden inside it.

I’m beginning to think the reason I like Halloween so much is because I have really good memories of Halloween as a child. Going back to my friends house we used to count out what we had gotten- up-ending our bags, rejoicing in the sweets and crisps and tossing the apples and nuts aside! Ah, it’s a good time of the year.

I don’t know what anyone else out there in the vast world does during Halloween- maybe nothing, maybe it doesn’t even register, maybe it’s just dressing up in a magical way for a party… well, whatever it may be, have a nice Oíche Shamhna everyone!