Saturday, October 24, 2009

Everyone should read Frank McNally

Frank McNally is a genius. I've been meaning to say this for months now. His Irishman's Diaries in the Irish Times are often the only thing worth reading in the paper.

Today he writes about Halloween, which is big business here now. But it wasn't always so. Now that it's a big deal, County Meath is claiming to be the birthplace of the festival.
Essentially, as is the fate of all developing economies, we exported the cheap raw materials for the festival, lacking the inclination or wherewithal to process them ourselves. Then the Yanks developed the ingredients into a more sophisticated product, with slick packaging, and exported it back to us at a large mark-up.

It is control of this value-added product that Meath is now attempting to seize with its bold “Home of Halloween” strategy. At the very least, the county could secure the Irish franchise, under license. But with enough ambition and clever marketing, the people behind the festival could soon have tourists flocking to it not just from the US but all over the world.

There is a helpful precedent in the form of St Patrick’s Day. For centuries, this wasn’t so much celebrated here as endured. Then the Americans turned it into into something saleable. And in the 1990s, belatedly realising there was a market for large-scale celebrations featuring the colour green, Dublin reinvented itself as the home of Paddy’s Day. Now at last the world is buying that product from us: which is only right, after all.