Originally held in Sides Dance Club, Dublin, on April Fool's Day 1987, the Alternative Miss Ireland has over the years repackaged itself with considerable brio.
The premise of the show is quite obvious; contestants (open to men, women and animals, although only one dog has entered in its history) are judged in the tradition of day-wear, swim-wear and evening-wear.
A group of celebrity judges awards points for poise, personality and originality and after considerable nail-biting and some superb "filler" entertainment the winner, Queen of Ireland, is crowned.
Dragging performance into the future this visual and aural spectacular is an hilarious, exotic and at times downright beautiful event, with a serious and caring purpose at its heart. Almost one hundred volunteers representing a variety of expertise and disciplines come together every St. Patrick's Week to ensure a fabulous show and in doing so raise considerable funds for much needed causes.
Originally the proceeds of the show went to the Rape Crisis Centre. In its recent reincarnation all funds have gone to Cairde, the practical support group for people affected by HIV and AIDS. In the past four years over 30,000 has been raised for Cairde, specifically for programmes designed to help children who are HIV or who have lost their parents to AIDS.
Over recent years the Alternative Miss Ireland has been judged and endorsed by a wide-ranging and rather glittering group of people, among them Marc Almond, Agnes Bernelle (who once famously entered her dog in the contest), Rifat Ozbek, Brenda Fricker, Van Morrison , Michelle Rocha, John Reynolds of Red Box/PoD fame, Louis Walsh.
The contest is run by Niall Sweeney, Rory O'Neill, Trish Brennan and Tonie Walsh. Each year (since 1996) it has been hosted by Emcee Panti. It was originally the brainchild of Frank Stanley and Ross Elliot Tallon, inspired by Andrew Logan's Alternative Miss World. It is put together by a large team of volunteers, without whom the show just wouldn't be possible. They hope to bring you more information about how the contest is put together, and the people behind it as soon as they can!
On the night of the pageant the stage is a populated by a huge crew to make sure nothing is left to chance. Noel Sutton has the demanding job on the day of looking after all matters backstage and then, after donning his gœna as Dizzy Dy'n For It, she (along with her sister, Dolly) has to make sure everything runs smoothly up front. "I wear an earpiece during the show so I know what's going on at all times. It's not as stressful as it might sound, all the crew have the running of the show down to a fine art at this point. What keeps me involved is the great people I work with. There are no hidden agendas. Everyone bounces off each other's energy."
Ferdia Murphy designs the stage with a lot of help from Niall Sweeney, Andy Firman, Michelle Darmody and Leah Hilliard, while Tony Flynn, Kareem Rehmani White and Brian Waters manage it on the night. The contestants are gloriously profiled by the lighting talents of Ronan Conway and Iain High, while Alan Duffy, Emma Kelly and Alan O'Donoghue are also vital cogs in the machine.