St. Patrick’s Festival and Dublin City Council Announce Relaxed Parade Space

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St Patrick’s Festival is delighted to announce the introduction of a Relaxed Parade Space for the first time at this year’s national St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday March 17th. The Relaxed Parade Space, sponsored by Dublin City Council, supported by the Lord Mayor Daithí de Róiste, with additional support from Bank of Ireland, aims to create the space which will be designed to support the needs of neurodivergent families and individuals, and those with sensory processing differences.

An estimated 500,000 people are expected to come out to witness the spectacle of the Parade and St. Patrick’s Festival wants it to be a happy place for everyone to enjoy. Organisers are conscious that some of the factors that make up the typical parade experience – loud noise, crowds, unpredictability – can be overwhelming and can act as a barrier for access to many members of the neurodiversity community.

Located at Bank of Ireland College Green, with access points at either end, the Relaxed Parade Space will offer attendees a safe space, away from the crowded streets from which to view and enjoy the parade. There will be extra space to allow freedom of movement to those who need it, additional seating, sensory areas and entertainment before the Parade, as well as different anticipated volume zones within the Relaxed Space for those who want to experience the parade at low, medium or full volume.

Speaking at the announcement of the Relaxed Parade Space, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Daithí de Róiste said: “I’ve enjoyed coming out to watch the St. Patrick’s Day Parade for many years, but I’m conscious that many families, those with neurodivergent children for example, don’t have similar opportunities. It’s vital that we embrace inclusivity and accessibility in a real sense – it’s something that I’m personally very passionate about, and that I have endeavoured to support at every opportunity. I commend the team at St. Patrick’s Festival and their partners for their vision in establishing the Relaxed Parade Space, and am delighted to support an initiative that will allow many families to attend the Parade for the first time.”

Additionally, the festival is partnering  with AsIAm, Ireland’s national autism charity, and Neurodiversity Ireland, an organisation helping to make our communities places where neurodivergent people feel seen, supported and included, to provide as much advance information to make the day as accessible as possible for all. A visual guide to communicate the journey and experience  will be available to help families in planning and preparing for their day. Festival staff are working with consultants around best practices in making sure that attendees at the Relaxed Parade Space have the information and support that they will need onsite throughout the day, along with visual guides to further assist families who may need them.

Richard Tierney, CEO, St. Patrick’s Festival, added: “The national St. Patrick’s Festival Parade is an experience like no other, a massive celebration of our arts, culture and heritage. However, we are aware that some aspects of it can impact negatively on many members of the neurodiversity community. I’m delighted that this year’s Parade will have a Relaxed Space for the first time . The Festival is committed to creating an inclusive space and I’d like to thank the Lord Mayor and Dublin City Council for their unrelenting support in helping us to make this a reality, to Bank of Ireland for their generous help on the ground, and AsIAm and Neurodiversity Ireland for helping us to navigate what is really a ground-breaking journey.

Simon Clarke, Head of Events, Dublin City Council, added: “With the success of the relaxed viewing performances at Dublin City Council Bram Stoker and Dublin Winter Lights events, Dublin City Council is committed to introducing more socially inclusive initiatives at all its large events so that all Dubliners and visitors can enjoy the vibrancy and culture of our great City”

Families who wish to avail of the Relaxed Parade Space are asked to register their interest via the accessibility page at stpatricksfestival.ie or to email [email protected]. More details, including specifics around what to expect in the space on the day, will be announced in the coming weeks.

Deirdre Gavin, HR Director and Head of Inclusion & Diversity, Bank of Ireland said “We are very happy to support this really important initiative. The St Patrick’s Festival is for everyone, and we hope that our College Green courtyard will be an ideal place for neurodiverse attendees to view the amazing spectacle! As one of Ireland’s largest employers and provider of financial services to people all over Ireland, we’re activity looking at steps we can take to further support our neurodiverse customers and colleagues. We hope they will make use of our space at College Green during the parade on March 17th.”

Adam Harris, CEO of AsIAm remarked “As Ireland’s Autism Charity it has been a real pleasure working closely with the Lord Mayor on our joint Autism-Friendly Capital City initiative. An inclusive city is one in which everyone can participate in every aspect of community life especially those moments and occasions which make the year special. Yet it is the unpredictability, sensory overwhelm and judgement of these occasions which can present real barriers to their enjoyment for the at least 1 in 27 people who are Autistic. We were delighted when we approached the Lord Mayor with the idea of making St Patrick’s Day parade more accessible for our community that he was able to work with the St Patrick’s Festival to create this truly unique, accessible space for our community. We believe it will not only improve accessibility on the day and serve to educate others but really lay down a marker for other events and festivals to follow in Ireland and, indeed, around the world.

Nessa Fee, Neurodiversity Ireland is delighted to partner with the St Patrick’s Day Festival and “welcomes the new Relaxed Parade Space, which will allow neurodivergent children and their families to participate in one of the most exciting events of the year in Dublin! Neurodivergent children will be able to join in the celebrations together with everyone else, something they will most likely never have done before. By creating a space where neurodivergent children can be their authentic selves (by being allowed to move around, make noise or have a break from the noise!), the St Patrick’s Day Parade has ensured their wonderful parade is accessible to many more!”

Jody O’Neill,  Relaxed Parade Space Coordinator, St. Patrick’s Festival commented “Over the past weeks, I’ve been blown away by the commitment and passion from the team at St Patrick’s Festival and all their partners to create a truly inclusive space in order to welcome families to the Parade, who may not have been able to attend in the past. I’m honoured to be part of the process of creating this new and essential space, and can’t wait to share it with families on the 17th of March.”

St. Patrick’s Festival hopes that the Relaxed Parade Space will continue to evolve and develop in response to feedback from the neurodiversity community and that this space will become an important part of future St Patrick’s Festivals in our journey towards greater inclusion.

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