Harry Potter Release Parties to Bewitch Book Lovers in Northern Ireland

Retailers across the country celebrate the latest chapter in J.K. Rowling's fantasy franchise with magical events counting down to its midnight launch on July 31

At a time when books are reported to be making a comeback, a new Harry Potter title couldn’t be more, well, timely. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, set some 19 years after the last book in the series, finds our hero dealing with encroaching middle age and parenthood, but promises the full range of wizards, magic, and mayhem, Hogwart’s School and platform nine and three quarters included.

To celebrate publication on Sunday, July 31 – or Harry Potter’s birthday as fans will know – many shops will be holding special late night openings on Saturday 30.

Leading the charge as you might expect are Waterstones, with all the Northern Irish branches promising late night treats. The Fountain Street branch in Belfast are emphasising the visual, so feel free to dress up as your favourite character, win prizes and meet some very special guests. The fun begins at 10.00pm, and you can pick up your copy of the book from midnight aka the witching hour.

Belfast is also where Easons will be focusing its efforts, stirring the celebratory cauldron for the chain's five NI shops at its main store in Donegall Place. Spooky events kick off at 10.30pm and there should be a pretty arty, Potter-ish vibe. Expect street performers, fairground artists, and you’re invited to don your finest fancy dress (in the hope of winning a prize) and collect a goodie bag  maybe you’ll locate Ron Weasley’s favourite fizzing whizzbees. At midnight exactly, the title will be revealed.

In Derry~Londonderry, Foyleside Shopping Centre has concocted an entire week's worth of wizardry to get fans ready for the release. From July 23 - 31 the high-street hub will be transformed into a world of magic and fantasy, where kids can get kitted out and have their faces painted as their favourite characters, be sorted into their Hogwarts houses at the craft workshop and hunt for hidden treasure in amongst the city's top retailers.

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Not only that, one lucky family of four will win a £1,000 trip to visit Harry Potter Land at the Warner Bros Studio in London. Described as a Harry Potter fan’s dream experience, the Studio Tour gives a behind the scenes look at how the iconic series was brought to life and features a treasure trove of sets, props and magic which made the world fall in love with The Boy Who Lived. Meanwhile, J.K. Rowling's latest addition to the franchise will be available to pick up from Eason at 9.00am on Monday, August 1.

Elsewhere its Waterstones which has programmed the majority of regional release parties. The Coleraine branch promises a similar mix of competitions and costumes, with the best dressed character winning a free book. But curious shoppers on Church Street the following Sunday afternoon beware, there may be an invasion of death eaters and at least one Ginny Weasley courtesy of Emerald Garrison, Ireland's premier costuming club. For further details ring 028 7035 8877.

In Newry local wizards and witches are urged to turn up to The Quays at 10.00pm on Saturday 30, though they do emphasise that muggles are also welcome. If you see an eerie light and hear mysterious noises emanating from the Fairhill Shopping Centre in Ballymena at the same time however, don’t worry, it’s just Waterstones celebrating all things Potter, with a costume competition and special late night snacks. Magic potions? Perhaps you should be worried after all.

The brand new city of Lisburn completes the Waterstones events with a special Harry Potter birthday party, complete with cake and Butterbeer at 30 Bow Street. Expect the clacking of witches’ and wizards’ boots on the paved shopping area.

With all that in mind, the only thing left to do is continue the countdown. So mount your broom, practice reciting your spells and prepare to be swept up in the sorcery once more. Ten points for Gryffindor!