Carnival celebrations in Clare

The Friday after Ennis was chosen as the winner, Ennis celebrated with a roadshow. Anna Nolan was there

ONE intriguing sighting at the Ennis celebrations of their Information Age Town win was a laughing TJ Waters being good-humouredly mobbed by children and adults alike as he tossed hats and T-shirts with the Information Age Town logo on them.

Mr Waters, president of the town’s Chamber of Commerce, was on his way to the Telecom Éireann roadshow stage to say a few words about the win. The whole of the large Abbey Street car park was taken over that night of Friday, September 26th, for open air celebrations, and the souvenir seekers were part of a crowd of several thousand gathered there to hear the music, to cheer the group that had lead the win, to cheer Telecom Éireann, and, indeed, to cheer themselves.

It was, thankfully, a mild night, and the roadshow ran for three hours, during which DJs Lorcan Murray of 2FM and John Carey of Clare FM (which had given enthusiastic endorsement to the Ennis entry, as had the Clare Champion newspaper), appearing alternately, kept the crowds well-entertained with a free music show.

Two large video-walls of 12 screens each, one to each side if the stage, enlivened the stage area. Further away, a striking large helium balloon carried between two and four kilowatts of light over the middle of the car park. "Four of these balloons would light up Croke Park," commented Colm O’Toole, Telecom Éireann’s events organiser.

Hundreds of smaller first cousins, in the shape of more normal sized celebratory Telecom Éireann helium balloons with the Information Age Town logo, were everywhere to be seen, not just in the car park, but in several parts of the town. A group of children in fancy dress and face paints added to the general festivities.

After over an hour of music, the brief formalities began. Kicking off, Gerry O’Sullivan, head of corporate relations at Telecom Éireann, who had been one of the five competition judges, congratulated the town on fighting off tough competition. Then Mr Waters, in his capacity as chairperson of the competition task force, asked the crowd to shout out how much Ennis was getting? "Fifteen million pounds" came back the enthusiastic roar. Who was the most generous company, he asked. "Telecom Éireann" came another roar back.

Three more cheers for Telecom Éireann, a shout of "Up the Banner" and a bottle of champagne was opened. Then Ennis of Clare, specially composed for the occasion, was sung, followed by The Rose of Clare. The Clare shout, usually confined to matters hurling, was also heard. Then it was back to the open-air music until 10.30p.m.

ON Telecom Éireann’s part, the logistics of organising the Ennis show were quite complex. The truck was specially hired and dressed up from scratch, the video-walls were flown in from England, and the illuminated giant balloon was also flown in. "It was the first time the balloon and the video-walls were used in this country for this type of purpose," said Colm O’Toole. "What was seen in Ennis was a mobile version of the stage at the Point Theatre on Wednesday night," he explained.

But it was not just a matter of organising an Ennis show. Think of arranging an event and multiply the effect by four. The ground work was laid in all four of the shortlisted towns - Castlebar, Killarney and Kilkenny, along with Ennis. Venues were booked, catering was arranged, the Garda and the Civil Defence Force contacted.

"We also had to print T-shirts, hats flags and balloons," Mr O’Toole pointed out. All the celebrating was a logical extension of the win on Wednesday night, but it was also an interlude in the work. An enormous amount of time and effort went into being short-listed first of all, and then into the winning. But after the clearly welcome break for celebrations, it was back to work again, because now the groundwork for the big experiment has to be laid, and the ideas and concepts that won Ennis its prize must be realised.