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What happens if there's a 'wardrobe malfunction' mid-way through the parade?

Half a million people are expected in Dublin tomorrow… We chat to some of the unsung heroes of St Patrick’s Day – to find out how those incredible pageants come together.

Patricks Day Parade Preparations A 'Brighter Futures' costume from last year's parade. Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated at 10.59pm

EVER NOTICED THOSE figures hovering around the edges of the St Patrick’s Day parade – fully kitted out in thigh-high boots, fairy wings and top hats (or whatever), but not making any particular effort to juggle, dance… or sometimes even face in the right direction?

The pageant companies taking part in tomorrow’s flagship event through Dublin city centre will have a small, dedicated team of prop and costume ‘first aiders’ on duty from early tomorrow.

Armed with scissors, needles and thread, cable ties, tape and sundry other bits and pieces – they’ll be on the job from the crack of dawn, putting the final touches on props and floats, and in some cases stitching participants into their outfits, ready for the off.

“We come in to the parade at 6 o’clock in the morning and everything is laid out in a row – in plastic bags, with a name-tag on,” head of costumes for the City Fusions/Brighter Futures company Amanda Donovan tells TheJournal.ie, at the group’s south Dublin Festival HQ.

“We have a little minute to catch our wits – and then the people come in droves.

There are some things that we can’t do before. Some people are, as it were, sewn into their costumes… It’s the only way to make it work, so there’s a mad flurry of needles flying.

Before the show starts – the costume and props teams needs to make time to don their own parade garb too.

“It’s a roller-coaster,” says Donovan.

“Every single one of us will have sharp needles hidden on our person on the day… We run up and down doing emergency fixes.”

“We’ll all be there,” she says, gesturing towards her small team of staff and volunteers.

“We’re all in costume – but you can tell us apart by the fact that we can’t dance,” Donovan jokes (“speak for yourself,” comes a good-natured response from the corner).

The idea is that we blend in… So we don’t stick out. We don’t attract attention.

rois Amanda Donovan, Roisín Lennon and Djibrilla Sidibe Source: Daragh Brophy/TheJournal.ie


Downstairs in the props workshop, Orla Clogher agrees the day itself can be a “total rush”,

You don’t get a minute from when you open your eyes in the morning until the parade ends, around three.

Alongside Donovan and her band of costumiers, Clogher will also be stalking through the small army of faux-silk draped dancers and stilt-walkers tomorrow morning, scissors in hand.

If something gets broken or falls off you just wrap it up and keep going.

The flying-under-the-radar costumes they create for themselves sometimes aren’t pedestrian enough for everybody, however.

Djibrilla Sidibe – who volunteered with the pageant company for three years before becoming a ‘costume assistant’ – shakes his head as he remembers his first year of involvement with the group.

“It was really bad,” he says, smilingly.

“They made me wear a skirt… Pink”

(He pauses, for comic effect).

“I still think about it every day.”

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

orl Orla puts the final touches on ... whatever these things are. Source: Daragh Brophy/TheJournal.ie

‘A slow build’

The parade is the culmination of months of hard work for City Fusion/Brighter Futures – which is commissioned annually to perform in the St Patrick’s Festival parade.

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Some 200 people, from groups as diverse as the DCU Japanese Society to Irish Deaf Teens have been taking part this year – learning street performance, dance and circus skills over a series of workshops designed by the team, and by volunteers who return to work with the company year-on-year.

For the prop and costume departments, the work begins in earnest around Christmas each year.

“It’s a slow build,” Donovan explains.

Most years, the bulk of the fabric is bought from Paris, in the January sales.

For the first month or so, it’s just a three-person costume team getting outfits ready – with more people coming on board once they’re available.

We’ve always relied heavily on volunteers too.

For the final weeks, from the start of March, the team are putting in “12 hour days, six or seven days a week”

“It really does take an obsessive personality. Even if you’ve a day off you’re worrying.”

Surprisingly, the most stressful period for the pageant staff is not the parade day itself.

It’s about two or three weeks before the parade, where you’re thinking – ‘this can’t be done, this can’t be done’.

“But miraculously, it is, and you see wonderful things like this.” (She points to a slowly-filling rail).

“A plastic bag with a name. And a hanger. And it’s ready to go…

“That’s happiness.”

cost Source: Daragh Brophy/TheJournal.ie

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About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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