A feast for the senses this Culture Night
It’s not just poetry slams and history lessons – though they’re present too. Our reporter rounds up what not to miss on Ireland’s biggest night dedicated to the arts
To say that that Ireland boasts an embarrassment of cultural riches is understating the case somewhat. From theatre and spoken word to music and literature, hip new gunslingers carry on the fine tradition of their cultural forebears, resulting in a rich tapestry that is enjoyed year-round.
And for one night only, Culture Night affords art, theatre, literature and architecture mavens a chance to reacquaint themselves with their creative and artistic passions, all for the princely sum of nought.
Come September 16, hundreds of galleries, museums and cultural centres throw open their doors to the public.
It’s become a behemoth in the arts calendar: last year around 370,000 people enjoyed a prime slice of arts action. A roll-call of greats — among them artist Pauline Bewick, Heathers and author Colin Barrett — are this year’s ambassadors and will be on hand to promote Ireland’s cultural heritage on the night.
Venues will stay open between 5pm and 11pm, effectively turning Ireland into a festive hive. Now in its 11th year, Culture Night is being celebrated in all 32 corners of the country; from Waterford and Kerry to Letterkenny and Limerick.
So whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool culture vulture who knows what’s what, or merely curious about what’s on offer, there are events galore that promise to rock the country. We’ve unearthed some of the best so you won’t have to.
1. Dublin Castle, Dame Street, Dublin 2, 5-10pm
All roads have led to Dublin Castle on Culture Nights past, and this year, RTÉ is set to continue its contribution to this centenary year with a series of special performances and events in Dublin Castle. Its historic rooms and outdoor spaces will be teaming live music, theatre and spoken word. Fresh from a rousing turn at Electric Picnic, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra will be joined by a host of guests from the world of music, theatre, comedy, poetry and literature including Little Green Cars, Laureate of Fiction Anne Enright, Opera Theatre Company, musician Lisa O’Neill and others. And for fans of esoterica, there is a Sleep Clinic, thanks to the Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Clinic Ireland, in the atmospheric underbelly of the Castle.
2. Smithfield Square Playground, Smithfield, Dublin 7, 5-9.45pm
Families will find much to love on the northside, with this host of interactive drop-in activities: drumming, capoeira, salsa and hip-hop dancing, Makeshop Doodlebot workshops for youngsters, Tetrahedron structure building along with a 3D map of Dublin, fencing, an art zone and a whole area dedicated to mouth-watering international and domestic gourmet food. Something for kids of every possible persuasion.
3. Irish Writers Centre, Parnell Square, Dublin 1, 7.30-10pm
Where else to celebrate Ireland’s cast-iron way with (written) words than in this buzzy literary hotspot? At 7.30pm The Soapbox sees well-known and emerging writers take to the platform for some old-school entertainment. Guests will include writers Colin Barrett, Alvy Carragher, Gavin Corbett, Tara Flynn, and Henrietta McKervey.
4. Herstory, The Liquor Rooms, Wellington Quay, Dublin 2. 8-11pm
Herstory has been created to tell the lost stories of hundreds of extraordinary Irish women from history and today. Working with 23 herstorians from universities across Ireland and the UK, organisers have shortlisted over 300 names, all as remarkable as Queen Maeve and Countess Markievicz. The idea is to bring their stories to life through theatre, comedy, music, literature, fine art, film and more. If celebrating girl power is your thing, this is the place to be.
5. Limerick Filmmakers at the Belltable, 69 O’Connell Street, Limerick, 7.30-10pm
Check out short films by five Limerick filmmakers — among them Philip Shanahan, Paddy Murphy, Ivan McMahon and Fiona Quinn — and enjoy the buzz of seeing emerging talents rise up before your very eyes.
6. Dublin Street Art Tour, Thunder Road Café, Dublin 2, 6-7.45pm
Ever looked at a colourful modern mural and wondered about its backstory? Well, wonder no more. Street artist and self-proclaimed ‘mindful vandal’ Will St Leger will take Dubliners on a tour of Dublin’s street art. Sometimes political, often playful - there is a lot to see on the walls of the capital.
7. Heathers at the Light House Cinema, Smithfield, Dublin, 5-10pm
There is plenty happening at the popular cinema: not only are there two free screenings of the Oscar-nominated ‘Song Of The Sea’ (directed by Tomm Moore), but Heathers — sisters Ellie and Louise Macnamara — will be rousing crowds with their joyful indie music, as only they know how.
8. Culture Night Perceptions Trail, 24 Sullivan’s Quay, Cork, 9-11pm
As a nod to the 1916 commemorative year, ‘Perceptions 2016: The Art Of Citizenship’ shows artwork from a number of homegrown and international artists. Across Crawford Art Gallery, CIT
Wandesford Quay Gallery, Nash 19 Sternview Gallery, Cork Airport, City Hall Atrium, The Quay Co-Op, Union Grind Espresso Bar and Cork Public Museum, visitors can meet and greet artists, and have a polaroid photograph taken with the one they love in next to Katie Whelan’s painting ‘All About Love’.
9. Croke Park, off Clonliffe Road, Dublin 3, 5-10.30pm
Ever wondered what the GAA stadium is like without the throngs of fans? Now’s your chance. Find out about hurley-making, visit the refurbished Hall of Fame and see if you’ve got the raw materials to be a GAA star with their Interactive Skills zone. There’s a new exhibition, too, to honour our Olympic champions. Booking essential: steak and spuds not included.
10. Freemasons’ Hall visit, 27 Tuckey Street, Cork, 6-9pm
The Freemasons’ Society has been shrouded in mystery for years, but now you can find out what makes the secretive society tick with this visit to their purpose-built headquarters. The museum room displays documents, artifacts and regalia that provides a unique insight into masonic history. Queues are expected, so be sure to get there early.
11. Martina Carr at Russborough House, Blessington, Co Wicklow
Not for nothing is Marina Carr a world-renowned playwright, and as she prepares to adapt ‘Anna Karenina’ for The Abbey, she will also read from a selection of her previous works. Accompanying her will be the world premiere of Oratorio ‘Mary Gordon’, a new work for massed choirs, solo vocalists, narrator and symphony orchestra at the National Concert Hall in November. This is a major new choral commission where events of 1916 intertwine with folklore and mythology of Blessington Lakes in County Wicklow.
12. The Non Stop Connolly Show with Margaretta D’Arcy and Mary Coughlan, The Claddagh Arts Centre, Galway (5-7pm)
The ‘Non Stop Connolly Show’ was a legendary theatre work in 1970s Ireland that visited the life and work of 1916 hero James Connolly in a seismic political drama by John Arden and Margaretta D’Arcy. To mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising, Margaretta D’Arcy will lead a special Culture Night re-imagining of the work, in the company of a like-minded troupe of radical western performers including musician Mary Coughlan. Not to be missed if you’re in the city of tribes.
13. Kilkenny Arts Office presents The Caravan Club Extravaganza, The Parade, Kilkenny, 5-7pm
And now for something entirely different: in the heart of Kilkenny, an eclectic mix of music should help raise the spirits of the Cats’ county. The stage, for starters, is a customised vintage Sprite Alpine Caravan, while the roll call of musicians for the night range from choir singers to dyed-in-the-wool rock stars. Among the highlights are Exploding Eyes, a garage psych rock trio from Dublin tipped for greatness after working with White Stripes producer Jim Diamond.
14. Bodhrán drumming with Ronan O Snodaigh, Mermaid Arts Centre, Co Wicklow, 6-8pm
Ever wanted to learn how to play the bodhran? Well, you may as well seize the opportunity to learn from the best — the Kíla frontman will lead his Bray-based ensemble through a variety of dancing rhythms, and it will culminate in an outdoor gig to be enjoyed by drummers and onlookers alike.
15. Pauline Bewick, Library Place, Killorglin, Co Kerry
A rare treat for culture fans in the Kingdom — legendary artist Pauline Bewick will be giving an hour-long talk on her life and work alongside her permanent collection in Library Place. Self-taught as an artist, Pauline started to paint at the age of two and has continued throughout her life. On turning 70, Pauline donated 500 pieces of her life’s work to the Irish nation, accepted by President Mary McAleese. The Seven Ages Collection represents each decade and facet of a woman’s life, and is on display in Waterford and Kerry. A life less ordinary, indeed.