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City goes back to future for St Patrick's festivities

BELFAST turned green yesterday as thousands of revellers flooded into the city centre to enjoy the annual St Patrick's Day parade.

Children and parents spread out along both sides of Chichester Street and Victoria Street to watch the parade make its way from Belfast City Hall to Custom House Square, the site for this year's free St Patrick's Day concert headlined by X Factor winner Shane Ward. The theme of the 2014 event was 'St Patrick - To The Future', with both Doctor Who's Tardis and the De Lorean time machine from Back To The Future taking part in the parade.

Rebranded as a Paddy's Public Call Box for the occasion, the familiar blue police box played host to an Irish drumming circle as it was led through the streets by a stilt-walking Doctor.

As for the De Lorean, it was piloted by the worlds most famous time-travelling Irish American, Marty McFly, while inventor Doc Brown and his team of scientists brought up the rear taking 'craic' readings from the crowd.

There were also plenty of pipers, drummers and dancers on hand to keep everyone entertained - indeed Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir couldn't resist having a go at twirling the baton with the Major Sinclair Memorial Pipe Band from Ballyclare who led this year's parade.

There was a family atmosphere in evidence at this year's event, with little street drinking or other anti-social behaviour and no alcohol on sale at Custom House Square.

However, the Irish tricolour was out in force, from cowboy hats to capes.

While the once ubiquitous inflatable hammers have thankfully become passe, city centre street traders did a roaring trade supplying kids with green white and orange-hued conical party hooters this year.

In an effort to make the St Patrick's event a more cross-community affair, those wielding or wearing the Irish flag while following the parade were politely asked to remove them by security staff before entering Custom House Square. This policy seemed to operate effectively throughout the afternoon, with organisers doling out politically neutral shamrock pennants to ensure every reveller had something to brandish at Shane Ward. However, before the Mancunian pop star took to the stage, there was a full programme of entertainment for the crowds to enjoy.

Hosted by CityBeat DJ Stephen Clements, the turns on offer included Irish and Bollywood dancers, local indie folk act Emerald Armada and Scots/ Irish musical troupe Sontas. "Biggest St Patrick's Day parade ever - well done folks," were the mayor's final words on Belfast's celebrations.

No doubt plans are already being hatched to ensure there's even more craic on offer next year.

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