The History of Spraoi

Not only did the meaning of the word perfectly describe the very essence of what Spraoi was to become, but it also rhymed perfectly with the first festival in 93.

The idea back in 1993 was simply to have some fun and perhaps a little madness on a Summer Sunday. This initial idea materialised as a one-day event held on the streets of Waterford City. It was so successful that an idea grew; perhaps it could become an annual summer festival in Waterford? Thus began it all. And what has since developed is one of Ireland’s leading street arts companies: Spraoi. Now, with over 20 years work in the are of spectacle, outdoor theatre, event and festival management and festival production, Spraoi has amassed a vast wealth of specialist skills and experience.

In 2002 the company embarked on an ambitious project – to construct its own studios, the first purpose building in Ireland dedicated to the development of street art. With the support and assistance of the Arts Council of Ireland, Waterford City Council, other grants and public donations, Spraoi achieved its dream and moved into its new and permanent home at Carrickpherish, Waterford, in January 2003.

Spraoi is perhaps best known for the annual Spraoi Festival which takes over the city centre of Waterford for the entire August Bank Holiday Weekend, and which now attracts audiences in excess of 80,000 people to the city. To that extent, there is no longer an August Bank Holiday Weekend in Waterford, it’s now better known locally as “The Spraoi Weekend”. The Spraoi Festival concentrates on showcasing top quality national and international street arts and world music.

In 2009 Spraoi devised a new event, “Spraoi in the Park”, based in Waterford’s People Park, the centre piece of which was Spraoi’s own major annual production “The Spraoi Parade”. The Parade has become one of the biggest events of its kind in Ireland, involving approximately 300 participants, with large scale floats, costumes, props, lighting and special effects.

As a producer and programmer of high quality street theatre and spectacle Spraoi is regularly commissioned by many of Ireland’s leading festivals and organisations to provide event spectacle and services. Past and present clients include St Patricks Festivals in Dublin and Waterford, Cork City Council, Dublin City Council, Dublin Docklands Development Authority, the Opening Ceremony for Cork 2005 European Capital of Culture, the Bram Stoker Festival and Waterford’s Tall Ships Race in 2005 & 2011.

Spraoi Timeline

2012
  • The company was commissioned to produce a new piece of street theatre work for the inaugural Bram Stoker Festival at Halloween.  A large cast and crew traveled to Dublin to perform the promenade piece in Dublin Castle.
  • The Spraoi Festival heralded a return to the city centre streets, as a wet summer rained off the Peoples Park.  Acts from nine countries entertained the huge crowds, with twelve Irish premieres.  The newly refurbished Mall area of the city looked particularly well in the Sunday sunshine.
  • The Spraoi Parade 2012 “Light of my Life” returned to the dark and the night, on Sunday evening.
  • A new sponsor, Maxol,  was welcomed to the Plaza Stage, where three great days of live music attracted record crowds
  • St. Patrick’s Day 2012 saw the company in Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Macroom.
2011

The Tall Ships Festival, Waterford 2011 was an enormous success for the County and Spraoi as we organised the ‘On Suir’ Entertainment for throughout the festival.

St. Patricks Day Parades are always fun to partake in and Spraoi joined five places (Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Macroom and Ballina) in their celebrations for 2011.

The Three Sisters Project was successfully run as Spraoi’s artistic team worked with the public to produce the batches of replica stained-glass panels that were displayed at and co-produced by Eigse Arts Festival Carlow, Kilkenny Arts Festival and Spraoi International Street Arts Festival.

Spraoi Festival 2011 created a great buzz for the public. It was a weekend of fun, music, street performances and the famous Spraoi Parade. Over the weekend approximately 300 people volunteer to help during the free festival.

2010
  • Spraoi in the Park, now in it’s second year, is a huge success in early July, with a Big Top, childrens art installations, music, Physics in the Field, GAA Play Away, WIT Science projects and the highlight, Spraoi’s 2010 Parade “Flights of Fantasy”
  • The Spraoi Festival attracts record crowds into the city over the August Bank Holiday weekend.  The sun does manage to shine for most of the event, allowing the large crowds to enjoy the huge array of entertainment.
  • Work begins on the Tall Ships Festival 2011 as Spraoi is commissioned to programme and produce the festival entertainment at the event.
  • In October the company works with Ballybricken Arts and Hertiage to produce “Stones & Bones”, a ghostly Halloween walk throught the streets of Waterford, recreating some of the ghoulish tales past from this ancient city.
2009
  • Spraoi devise a new Summer event for Waterford, “Spraoi in the Park”, based in and around the People’s Park ’s in the City. To be held over the first weekend of July, the highlight will be the annual Spraoi Parade.
  • Spraoi’s touring production “The Box” visits many leading festivals and events in Ireland, including The Big Day Out at St Patricks Festival, Dublin, the Volvo Ocean Going Race in Galway, and ArtsFest at Cork
    Institute of Technology.
  • The company provide programming and production services at the Dublin Docklands Maritime Festival once again, and once again the sun blazes from the sky for the three days.
  • It’s a busy St. Patricks Day for the company as they take part in four parades, Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Macroom. Approximately 150 cast and crew, most of whom are volunteers, are involved in the four shows.
  • And it’s also a busy Winter for the company, as they build sets and props for several productions, including “Aladdin” for Waterford Pantomime Society, “Beauty and the Beast” for Tipperary Musical Society and “Sive” for Waterford Dramatic Society.

Spraoi in the Park

  • The Spraoi Parade moves to a new date, a new time and a new route, Sunday afternoon on the streets surrounding the Peoples Park. “Mr. Menagerie and his Clockwork Creatures” is based on the theme of a traveling carnival led by Mr. Menagerie, the characters who work in it, the people who visit it and the amazing array of clockwork creatures, great and small, who are in it.
  • Architects of Air present their biggest Luminarium “Levity II”, inspired by the beauty of natural geometry and by Islamic architecture. This 800 sq metre inflatable sculpture made up of labyrinthine tunnels and inspiring spacious domes attracts huge crowds over the weekend.
  • “Flower Power”: Spraoi designs huge flower installations to act as the anchor point to this unique installation event. Children came along in their hundreds to make special flowers which they then signed and planted, adding to the maze of colour.
  • There’s also music, dance and activities for the whole family throughout Saturday and Sunday. At various areas in the park, and at various time, under the trees, beside the Café, in the bandstand, at the skatepark, there was always something to watch or listen to.

Spraoi Festival

  • Once again the weather becomes a focal point as Spraoi battles through the rain to bring the festival to fruition. And the crowds turn out in their thousands, despite the weather.
  • One of Spraoi’s most popular acts ever, Transe Express, return with the Irish premiere of their new show “Mobile Oblique et Bancal”. 10,000 people see two very special shows on Spraoi Saturday, and watch in awe as an aerialist spins high in the air, under a canopy of drummers, suspended from a gigantic crane, with a perfect full moon as a backdrop.
  • The 2009 festival features acts from 11 countries, including several Irish  premieres.

2008

Spraoi produce a new touring street theatre show “The Box”, a zany and hilarious piece of physical street theatre.  Directed by Dermot Quinn and designed by Mike Leahy, with an original soundtrack by Jamie Beamish, it attracts enthusiastic audiences when it appeared at several festivals throughout Ireland.  Complete with an original sound track, The Box draws it inspiration from a diverse range of imagery ranging from cold war sci-fi and espionage, to slapstick silent movies of the 1920’s.

  • An extended and enlarged programme of street theatre and music is presented and produced by the company at the Dublin Docklands Maritime Festival, in blazing sunshine, in June.
  • The 2008 festival features acts from 13 countries, and several Irish premieres, including the large scale street theatre production “Hydromania”, presented by one of Britain’s leading street spectacle  companies, Avanti Display, at the Waterford City Courthouse, and “The Station” by Bash St Theatre, which is co-commissioned by Spraoi in association with ten other international festivals.
  • Spraoi’s 2008 own production for the Festival is inspired by the tradition of shipbuilding in Waterford, when the city was home to the largest steam ship fleets in the world, and shipyards dotted the riverbank, forging great ships from iron. Spraoi embarked on an epic production to celebrate this nearly forgotten time in the city’s history. “The Iron Tide” took to the streets on her maiden voyage at 9.30pm on Sunday, August 3rd.  Along the length of the Quay five docks awaited the arrival the great ship. Waterford’s quays are one of Europe’s great urban spaces, and it is this setting that was the inspiration for this unique one- off theatrical spectacle, celebrating the City and its heritage on a truly monumental scale.
  • Spraoi features several Irish premieres, including Sienta La Cabeza from Spain, Italy’s Oplas Teatro with their stunning stilt choreography, the USA Breakdancers with their amazing dance moves and Mimbre with their stylish choreographed piece “Sprung”.
  • Increased promenade performances are a major hit at the festival, with large scale walkabout performances by companies Close Act from Holland, Larkin’ About and Los Kaos from the UK, and Waterford Youth Arts with a specially commissioned piece, “The Rubbish Pirates
  • For 2008 The Guinness Rhythm Route plays host to varying sounds from around the Globe. Highlights include The Red Stripe Band, with their unique blend of boogie woogie and jazz, and the stylish old time sound of the Fat 45s.