Wednesday 21 February 2018

Dublin Castle to take centre stage for a feast of culture

RTÉ's three-hour show will offer a taste of the very best of the arts in contemporary Ireland, writes Celine Naughton

The RTÉ Orchestra performs at Dublin Castle. Picture: Maxwells
The RTÉ Orchestra performs at Dublin Castle. Picture: Maxwells

Celine Naughton

It's been a military fortress, a prison, a treasury, the seat of British rule for 800 years, and the site of the first casualty of the 1916 Easter Rising.

And now the ghostly grounds and hallowed halls of Dublin Castle are set to reverberate to the sounds of music, verse and song when the nation celebrates its 13th annual Culture Night on Friday, September 22.

To mark the occasion, RTÉ will present a feast of culture at the castle, providing a taste of the very best of the arts in contemporary Ireland. Featuring a host of performing talent, the three-hour broadcast provides the centrepiece for a nationwide celebration that will also see free events taking place in practically every town and village in the country.

"It's going to be a fantastic night," says programmer Rachel Breslin. "The RTÉ Concert Orchestra will be playing in the upper yard, which has a capacity of 4,000, so that promises to be an unforgettable experience."

The three-hour extravaganza from 7-10pm will be broadcast live by 'Arena with Seán Rocks'. Special guests include The Strypes, Mongoose, Daithí with Sinéad White, Stephen James Smith, Felispeaks, Mariachi San Patricio, Liam O'Connor, Kevin Barry, and Cavan singer-songwriter Áine Cahill. Having performed at major venues and festivals including Vicar Street, the Cork Opera House, Electric Picnic and Glastonbury, 23-year-old Cahill is super excited about this particular gig.

"It's a big deal," she says. "Last year on Culture Night I played in Cavan County Museum, which was a lovely, intimate affair. This is quite a contrast, and I'm honoured to be part of it, because culture is such an important part of our lives. It certainly is for me.

"I came late to music. I auditioned for the choir in secondary school, but didn't get in. It was only in Junior Cert year, when I started listening to Lady Gaga, that I taught myself to play the piano, and then, inspired by Lana Del Rey and Marina and the Diamonds, I started writing songs. I went through a rough patch in my teens. It was a bit of a dark time - as Lady Gaga says, 'As artists we are eternally heartbroken' - and music and culture helped me through it. I went to plays and gigs, and when I started singing, I found my voice. I still have no idea where it came from. I'd always believed I couldn't sing, and out of the blue, there it was."

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And what a voice it is… rich, strong, soulful and, despite comparisons with any number of other singers from Amy Winehouse to Adele, it is utterly unique.

With such a stellar line-up of artists performing at an extraordinary venue in the heart of Dublin, this looks set to be a stand-out event. And if it rains, so what. The show will go on and besides, a variety of workshops and live recordings will take place indoors.

From the foyer of the Printworks, RTÉ's 'Drama on One' team will demonstrate how to create a play for radio.

"It's an interactive workshop with sound effects, and while designed with young people in mind, it's fun for all ages," says Ms Breslin.

The Coach House is the venue for 'Banter with Jim Carroll', in which an eclectic group of people will discuss their relationship with the arts and what culture means to them. Contributors include film-maker Emer Reynolds, novelist Sally Rooney, Raidió na Gaeltachta broadcaster Sinéad Ní Uallacháin and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe among others.

There will also be live recordings of three popular radio shows on the night. Damien O'Reilly presents 'Countrywide', with entertainment from Séamus O'Rourke and music from Lisa McHugh; Marty Morrissey and guests look at the changing face of the national institution that is the GAA; and 'Sunday Miscellany' features new Irish writing with music from Shane Hennessy and trio Kate Ellis, Francesco Turrisi and Nick Roth.

"These recordings take place in the Chapel Royal, which is a beautiful space not normally open to the public," says Ms Breslin. "Admission is free, but they are ticketed events, and are expected to fill up quickly."

Booking is also required for 'Hopscotch in the Sky', a family event co-presented by Poetry Ireland and Little Island Books, based on a new book of poems for children, to be published in October. Taking place from 5-6pm in Castle Hall, poet Lucinda Jacob, illustrator Lauren O'Neill and singer-songwriter Enda Reilly will spark the imagination of their young audience with poems and pictures of ice-creams and Christmas trees, flying grannies and reading mermaids.

"We'll be joined by the 2016 winners of the Poetry Aloud poetry speaking competition, which is fab because this will demonstrate to other children on the night that young people like themselves can and do get involved in creativity and cultural activities," says Ms Jacob.

"It's easy for a child to think that it's always someone else in the class who's good at drawing or writing poems. I tell them that as humans we're all hard-wired to be creative, because we connect with each other, and creativity is really just about communication.

"I hope that people of all ages engage with Culture Night, because it's a chance to sample lots of different things that you mightn't otherwise experience. Crossing the threshold of a theatre or a gallery can be intimidating, but this night creates an opportunity for culture to spill out on to the streets and into people's lives."

Culture Night with RTÉ is presented by RTÉ in partnership with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Creative Ireland, Dublin City Council and the Office of Public Works. For further information, see

Irish Independent

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