Roll up for long night of culture
500,000 to attend free events across the island
THE largest-ever Culture Night in Ireland kicks off this afternoon, with hundreds of free events across the nation expected to pull in crowds of 500,000 or more.
Twenty locations -- including major centres such as Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford -- are hosting their own Culture Nights with a dazzling array of events.
The doors to art galleries, libraries, museums, theatres and tourist attractions and former jails will open to the public free of charge.
The stunning setting of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin will be the backdrop for a massive tented street party, offering free food and music as well as a chance to meet the artists in residence and take in a talk and tour of the grounds.
A free pint of the black stuff will also be on offer at the nearby Guinness Storehouse, which will be open for a free tour of the museum and a pint overlooking Dublin's city centre from the Gravity Bar from 5pm-10pm.
Leinster House will have guided tours of the debating chambers of both the Dail and the Seanad as well as the hallowed halls of the Houses of the Oireachtas.
And beyond the Pale, history buffs can take in an eerie re-enactment of the horrendous deeds committed by cruel jailers at the reportedly haunted Wicklow Gaol.
Culture vultures can take a moonlit stroll through the woods in Co Kildare with story readings and music en route or experience a night of traditional music and storytelling on the Gaeltacht Tory Island off the Donegal coast.
Lovers of literature and photography will get a chance to hear Man Booker Prize-winning writer John Banville read from his work at the Greystones Library in Greystones, Co Wicklow, or take in an illustrated lecture by renowned photo-journalist John Minihan at the Athy Library, Athy, Co Kildare.
Culture Night, which began as a social experiment in Dublin's Temple Bar in 2004, has grown to an all-Ireland event with activities taking place in Belfast and Derry.
Similar events have also been organised in Leuven, Belgium, and in New York City.
And although most of the action will wind down by midnight, the man whose brainchild is Culture Night, Dermot McLaughlin -- CEO of the Temple Bar Cultural Trust -- said he would love to see events remain open all night.
Unfortunately, though, cost constraints means that most events will finish by 10pm or 11pm.
"It's one of the final hurdles -- to get it up to speed with other countries," he said.
But he said this year has something for everyone.
"Grandparents, grandchildren, children, families and people of all backgrounds will experience Culture Night -- bringing together a very diverse audience, who all share a desire to explore the wealth of culture on their doorsteps," he added.