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Image / Living / Culture

I visited the ‘Toy Show’ set and yes, it was pure magic


By Sarah Finnan
24th Nov 2023
I visited the ‘Toy Show’ set and yes, it was pure magic

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Earlier this week, I headed out to RTÉ for a sneak peek of the Toy Show set. The equivalent of Christmas Eve in Toy Show land, the media preview has become an annual celebration over the years and marks the first time that anyone other than Patrick Kielty, the performers, and those immediately tied to the show, are told what the theme is. And this year, it looks like we’ll be taken on a journey through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, past the sea of twirly-swirly gumdrops, and on through the Lincoln Tunnel before arriving in NYC…

For those of you who didn’t pick up on that not-so-subtle hint, this year’s theme is none other than Elf, one of our favourite Christmas movies of all time.After finishing the registration rigamarole and swearing myself to secrecy (so help me God), I (and all the other journalists) were ushered inside to meet the man of the hour, Mr Patrick Kielty himself. It was at this point that I truly knew I was amongst friends as most of the staff had dressed up for the occasion with festive jumpers, sequined trousers, and novelty earrings aplenty. Was it too early to say “Merry Christmas”? Probably, but I did so anyway. 

Eimear McDermott (11) from Drogheda who will perform on Friday’s Late Late Toy Show on RTÉ One

By far one of the most beloved Irish programmes of all time, the Toy Show has achieved cult status since its inception with millions of people settling in to watch the fun each year – last year, international viewers tuned in from over 139 different countries in cities like London, New York, Boston, Dubai and Sydney. Streamed live on RTÉ One and on the RTÉ Player, the show’s premise has burgeoned and evolved over the years, and despite its name, is actually much less about the toys and much more about the kids. As Ryan Tubridy once put it, “it’s not a toy show, it’s a childhood show”. 

If Kielty is nervous, he hides it well telling us that he is “so excited” to step up to the helm of his first Toy Show. “With anything worth doing which is exciting, just beforehand, there might be a tiny bit of nerves before you go but I think you owe it to yourself to enjoy it. 

“It’s a massive, massive honour to be walking out there and be part of this party. We‘ve got some amazing performances, we’ve got a few surprises…there will be singing and dancing, whether I’ll be singing and dancing, has yet to be seen!”

So, what can we expect this year? In a word; fun. Industry advice is to never work with children or animals but that’s not an adage Kielty subscribes to. “This isn’t my show, this is the kids’ show and this show belongs to everybody Irish, home and abroad. In a lot of ways, I think it’s Irish Thanksgiving.” A bold statement perhaps but with the way the show has been received by Irish audiences the world over, it’s not hard to see what he’s getting at. 

While the show itself is indisputably all about escapism and celebration, it has also introduced a more philanthropic element in recent years and tonight’s programme will again feature the now-annual Toy Show Appeal. Back for its fourth year, the 2021 fundraiser amassed a hugely impressive €6.8million and provided support to over 160 children’s charities. With at least one project in every county in Ireland receiving funds, it is estimated that the monies raised helped over 1.1 million children and family members in 2022 – a testament to just how much this show truly means to the public.

Patrick Kielty is pictured with Danny Sheehan (8), Poppy Madden (6), Layla Ibegu (10), Darcy Ramsbottom (6) and Kyle Deane (8) revealing the theme for this year’s Late Late Toy Show

To state the obvious, that’s a hell of a lot of money, but figures aside, it’s times like these that such fundraisers are more important than ever – especially in light of the horrific violence carried out in Dublin last night. 

The past few years have been some of the hardest years in history for Irish people – I don’t need to relive the details, we were all there – and yet we collectively managed to raise close to €7 million for charity? We’re a generous people but that would warm the cockles of your heart… it certainly did mine. 

The Toy Show is more than just a show. For anyone who has ever endeavoured to try and explain the premise to international friends and family, it can be hard to nail down exactly what makes it so great. Is it the inherent Irishness? The nostalgia? The childlike glee that the show encourages in people (both young and old alike)?

Honestly, it’s probably a combination of all three, but it’s also the way it rallies the country to unite for a good cause. Whatever it boils down to, the Toy Show can only be described as an Irish institution and I hope I’m still watching when I’m 90.

Deaf Presenters Jason Maguire and Sarah Jane O’Regan

The Late Late Toy Show with Irish Sign Language (ISL) will broadcast live on RTÉ News Channel and RTÉ Player.?For the first time, this year’s ISL coverage features two deaf presenters – Sarah-Jane O’Regan and Jason Maguire – who will be working with hearing interpreters, Amanda Coogan and Ciara Grant.

You can watch The Late Late Toy Show November 24th, at 9:35pm on RTÉ One. The show will also be available to stream worldwide on the RTÉ Player. A full list of the toys featured on the show can be found on the RTÉ website following the broadcast. All toys featured on the night will be donated to Irish charities. Donations for this year’s appeal can be made throughout the show and after it has finished via the RTÉ website and via the Revolut app.  

Photography by Andres Poveda.