Monday 20 November 2017

A night of culture - but we can't see it all

Opera singer Aoife Gibney and aerial artists from Aerial Cirque launch Culture Night in Merrion Square Park
Opera singer Aoife Gibney and aerial artists from Aerial Cirque launch Culture Night in Merrion Square Park
Aonghus McAnally in the swing of things Photo: Fergal Phillips
A currach brings the Liffey to life. Photo: Photocall Ireland
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

"Such an abstraction concept", "booming percussion", "a great installation" - if these genuine snatches of animated conversation by very real people were anything to go by, Culture Night was a massive success in providing conversation starters.

But, much more importantly, it was a whole lot of fun.

Hordes of 'culture vultures' roamed the streets of our cities in a thirsty search of the intriguing, the thought-provoking and the different.

It was frenzied, it was feverish and it was, admittedly, a little frustrating.

There was no way you were going to make it all the way across town to take in that currachs racing on the Liffey when you simultaneously just had to see Rick Stein at Hodges Figgis bookshop.

Worse again if you were in a group torn by cultural desires. A few loftily cerebral spats were witnessed along the way, as tastes conflicted.

On the 10th anniversary, the event shows no sign of waning - with more than 1,500 venues in 41 regions, as towns and cities around Ireland threw their doors open for a diverse mix of 3,000 free events.

Getting in an early start at Temple Bar Square in Dublin were the Line-Up gospel and spiritual choir.

Not officially part of Culture Night - they were actually part of the Buckets for Barnardos appeal - nevertheless they fitted in nicely with the feel-good factor.

Down a tiny alleyway off Temple Bar, at Aston Place, artist Aga Szot had opened her studio installation inspired by Francis Bacon.

Set in a premises formally occupied by a Thai massage parlour shut down by the authorities, Aga's studio is part of an arts project to transform the area.

Atmosphere

"It's a constant struggle and I don't make money, but it's a passion," said Aga.

"This was the forgotten part of Temple Bar - we're about 10 metres off the beaten track, unfortunately."

Her studio impressed a group of tourists from Zaragoza, Spain, who were "looking out for the balloons" over the doors of institutions and anywhere taking part in Culture Night.

From the dulcet tones of the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir singing Verdi's 'Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves', to the holiday feel of the Stomptown Brass band, the cobblestones of Trinity College offered very different experiences for culture junkies.

Aine Ui Raghaillaigh, who was singing in the choir, was on her way up with her family to hear the RTÉ concert Orchestra.

"It's a musical night for us," she said happily.

Young couple Tanya and Pavel Horacek, with their son Joshua (3), said all was going well so far.

"No whines, no tantrums, no wanting to go home," said Tanya with relief.

After Trinity, they were going to stroll up town and soak up the atmosphere before heading to the Smock Alley Theatre, where there were tours and a special performance taking place.

"Anything that gets audiences engaged and away from their devices is a good thing," said host Aonghus McAnally.

Outside Dublin Castle, the Dublin Circus Project mesmerised audiences with fire-juggling.

"Don't try this at home - try this in your back garden," they joked.

After this cultural extravaganza, you never know what the youngsters might get up to next.

Irish Independent

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