Bram Stoker Festival Returns This October Bank Holiday Weekend

One of Dublin’s biggest and most-anticipated festivals, Dublin City Council Bram Stoker Festival is back with more than 50,000 expected to enjoy Four Day of Deadly Adventures across the city from Friday 27th October to Monday 30th October.

This festival celebrates one of Ireland’s most internationally recognised authors and offers devilishly fun experiences for all ages, including free events for families, fascinating tours, reimagined movies with live scores, comedy, freaky cabarets, live podcast recordings, themed events at national cultural institutions and this year, even a trip through a Victorian graveyard for Dublin’s bravest souls. From the return of Macnas to the city’s streets to theatrical terrors at the Abbey Theatre and Smock Alley Theatre, the programme invites Dubliners to embrace the macabre and have fun this Hallowe’en in unique and unusual locations throughout the city. 

Sure to set Dublin’s pulse racing with excitement is the return of world-renowned pioneers of imagination, Macnasto the streets of Dublin for the first time since 2018. Their brand-new Hallowe’en Parade, Cnámha La Loba, will welcome Dubliners and visitors for an utterly astonishing spectacle on Monday 30th October, the eve of Hallowe’en. Cnámha La Loba will premiere in Galway City on Sunday 29 October. 

At the Abbey Theatre, Stoker’s literary brilliance will be highlighted at Dracula: A Journey Into Darkness – A Staged Reading of Dracula Chapters 1-4, read live by Andrew Bennett (The Quiet Girl/An Cailín Ciúin) as Johnathan Harker and Barry McGovern (Apocalypse Clown) as the unseen Dracula and directed by Joan Sheehy (The Quiet Girl/An Cailín Ciúin). A night filled with suspense and punctuated with terror, this theatrical event, dripping with intensity and intrigue, marks the first time Stoker’s text will be spoken on our national stage. 

Stoker’s great-grand nephew and custodian of the Stoker Estate, Dacre Stoker’s Dissecting Dracula with Dacre Stoker will take place at Stoker’s old place of work, the eerily enchanting Dublin Castle. At this interactive literary workshop, the secrets of Dracula’s creation will be unlocked as Dacre dissects rare, replica papers borrowed from esteemed libraries and archives worldwide.

Revenant, written by Stewart Parker Trust Award nominee Stewart Roche, is a visceral, frightening theatrical experience, marrying elements of horror and suspense with deliciously dark comedy in a reflection on the choices we make in pursuit of success. In it, Carter, a gifted but volatile director, is faced with the sudden departure of his lead actor and forced to make a crucial decision – abandon the film or take a chance casting the mysterious Vardell, an actor with a shadowy past but extraordinary talent. Taking place in the suitably evocative Boys School at Smock Alley, this play was Winner of the Best Production Award at the Buxton Fringe Festival 2023. The performance, on Sunday 29 October at 6.45pm will be ISL interpreted. 

Now a firm Dublin City Council Bram Stoker Festival favourite, Stokerland, the free annual pop-up Victorian fun park, opens its Gothic Gates for families and the eternally young for three days in St. Patrick’s Park. Since 1904, families and children have enjoyed fun and games in this stunning park beneath the shadow of one of the city’s most-beautiful cathedrals, and our Gothic gathering of fun and games continues this Victorian-era tradition! Each day at Stokerland is different, with all sorts of activities taking place across the park. This year, there’ll be a delicious mix of storytelling and draw-alongs, bands, discos and dance parties, street theatre & walkabout performers, art workshops, spooky science shows, magic shows and circus workshops.

On Monday 30 October, from 11am – 1pm,the festival  will host a Relaxed Session of Stokerland in St Patrick’s Park. The programming at this session has been designed to welcome families who will benefit from a more relaxed environment, including families with members who identify as neurodiverse, are on the autistic spectrum, with sensory and communication disorders, ADHD, ADD, tourettes or with learning disabilities. More information on this session is available on the festival website. 

Experience the twisted world of Monsieur Pompier’s Travelling Freakshow,  the freakiest cabaret act around, at their exclusive festival event, Nightmaresville. This mind-bending cabaret lifts the veil onto a surreal world packed with bizarre ballads and maniacal music about inside-out cats, hedgehog swallowers and devious doctors. Oddballs and outcasts, misfits and ne’er do wells will delight in this delicious darkness, with a full band performing chaotic and frenzied numbers which will leave audiences wondering if they’re in The Sugar Club or mid fever dream. 

Fans of cult-film and film soundtracks have two opportunities to delve into reimagined cult classics. At Faust (1926) Re-Scored by DJ Shampain, Dublin-based horror film, art and music club Slaughterhouse give F.W. Murnau’s classic ‘good vs evil’ epic, ‘FAUST’ (1926) fresh life with a soundtrack chosen and mixed live by internationally-renowned DJ SHAMPAIN in the Pepper Canister Church. Slaughterhouse have hosted sold-out screenings in warehouse spaces, tattoo parlours, wine bars, plant shops and galleries across the city but this festival exclusive is their first time taking over a (reputedly) haunted church. 

Raidió na Life: Súmairí agus na Neamhmhairbh is presented in partnership with Raidió Na Life, a live podcast as Gaeilge with readings from the Irish language version of Dracula with special guests and dark musical interludes at the Palatine Room in the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks. 

Also at the Pepper Canister Church, composer Matthew Nolan has produced a score for I am NOT Legend, a reworking of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead by American-Italian director and artist Andrea Mastrovito.In collaboration with cellist Kevin Murphy and contemporary vocalist Ceara Conway, the film and live score accompanies a work of horror film-art for our times: the first opportunity for Irish audiences to see the film on a big screen. I am NOT Legend completely reimagines Night of the Living Dead, creating a screenplay composed entirely of quotes from famous films, books and other sources alongside a frame-by-frame reworking of the film’s visuals. Horror and pop-culture fans can expect shivers down their spines as it investigates the existential threat of zombies on our doorstep. 

Years before the publication of Dracula, Stoker was granted unrestricted entry to the infamous Millbank Prison, on the banks of the Thames in London. Inside these walls, he crossed paths with renowned criminals, fraudsters and killers. One particular encounter with an Irish prisoner, entangled in a web of violence spanning Ireland and Britain, left an indelible mark on Stoker’s imagination. Join Dr. Jason McElligott, Director of Marsh’s Library, for Criminal Insanity: Bram Stoker and the Inmates of Millbank Prison, a captivating lecture on the murky, real-life people and places which informed Stoker’s masterpiece at The Graduate Memorial Building in Trinity College – home to the College’s Historical and Philosophical Societies – both of which record Stoker as auditor during his time as a student.

History and podcast fans are in for a treat with not one but two events featuring Dublin’s favourite historian, Donal Fallon. At Three Castles Burning Live – Bram and Beyond: The Irish Supernatural, Fallon and guests Brian J. Showers of Swan River Press and the actor Kathy Rose O’Brien delve into the works of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Katharine Tynan and Dorothy MacArdle, among others, and explore their links to Stoker and the Dublin of his time. This event also takes place at the Graduate Memorial Building in Trinity College. This is an ISL interpreted event.

Fallon will also lead a specially-commissioned walking tour of one of Dublin’s most fascinating square miles forDonal Fallon’s Tour of Mount Jerome Cemetery, the eternal home to one of the finest collections of Victorian memorials, tombs, vaults and crypts in Ireland. Amidst the headstones you’ll encounter important names in the Irish supernatural tradition, like William Wilde and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, among many others. 

Tours are eternally popular with the festival’s loyal fans and there’s no shortage this year. At Time To Vote, Warmbloods: Vampires Question Modern Art, two of Dublin’s most-genteel vampires, Winnifred and Anne, are trying to come to terms with modern art. Can they, as old things themselves, accept modern paintings? Are they dusty enough? Are they as nice as their old favourites?

On this comedy tour of the National Gallery of Ireland, they’ll enlist the help of attendees in finally answering their age-old question – Do Vampires Like Modern Art?. This tour is performed and written by Underthings (Debbie Cheevers and Denny MacDermott) an improv/sketch duo from Dublin who specialise in dark, domestic comedy and hard stares. 

Dubliners and visitors to the city alike are invited to explore Stoker’s alma mater Trinity College at Trinity Trails Bram Stoker Tour. This tour of the campus will explore the legacy of its literary giants and walk in the footsteps of literary giants like Stoker, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, and Sally Rooney.

The National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks will host two free events over the weekend. A World Full of Miseries, and Woes, and Troubles’: Life, Disease and Death in Collins Barracks is a free tour with Museum guides discovering the chills, ills, and kills in Collins Barracks 300-year long history. Find out about the trials and tribulations of life as a soldier living in the Barracks from the 1700s until the late 1900s, with a focus on (ill-) health, as well as the transition from one of Europe’s oldest occupied Barracks into one of Ireland’s National Museums.

At Hands-on History: Malady, Mourning and Mystery, museum educators will facilitate an interactive session with objects from the Museum’s handling collection that reflect a history of life, disease and death. Move out of the sun and into the Museum to learn all about how people fought illness and mourned losses in the Victorian era.

For over three centuries, Ireland’s oldest public library has stood in Saint Patrick’s Close on the edge of the Cathedral graveyard, which for early readers provided the only path to its door. At Spooky Stories at Marsh’s Library, guests are invited to wander the darkened galleries where books of witchcraft, martyrdom and heresy are to be found. Prepare to be enthralled as the library’s knowledgeable staff recount spine-tingling anecdotes from its intriguing past in a setting almost entirely unchanged since Stoker’s visit.

Speaking about the festival, the Lord Mayor of Dublin Daithí de Róiste said 

“Bram Stoker is one of Dublin’s most fangtastic literary greats and I’m looking forward to what I’m sure will be a Spooktacular Dublin City Council Bram Stoker Festival this Halloween. There’s something for everyone so check out the programme of events and come along, if you dare!”

Festival Co-Directors Maria Schweppe and Tom Lawlor said 

“We’re so excited to finally unleash this year’s programme and think Dubliners of all ages will find something for them, their families and their mates to enjoy this Hallowe’en in town. Last year just under 50,000 people from all parts of the city and country joined us over the October Bank Holiday weekend and we’re confident that this year will see even more people joining in the fun.”

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