Artist Freya Rothwell reflects on her participation in Bray Churches Together Art Exhibition during Culture Night.
From humble beginnings as a 2006 local celebration of arts and culture in Temple Bar, Culture Night (or in Irish, Oíche Chultúir) has since become a national event that has spread across the whole island of Ireland. Held annually on the second to last Friday of September, Culture Night’s purpose is to bring people together through accessible public events that promote culture and creativity, with emphasis placed upon community diversity. Collaborative in nature, all of these events - such as workshops, live music, theatre and dance performances, short film festivals, and various launches - invite everyone of all backgrounds to attend and engage with the various identities and cultures that Ireland has to offer. With the support of the Arts Council and Local Authorities, doors opened even later this year with a wide variety of activities to suit everyone.
Collaborative in nature, all of these events - such as workshops, live music, theatre and dance performances, short film festivals, and various launches - invite everyone of all backgrounds to attend and engage with the various identities and cultures that Ireland has to offer.
This year’s Culture Night was held on the 22nd of September, and like previous years it had a huge range of activities and events on offer, which the general public can access free of charge. With more than 1,700 events this year, there is truly something for everyone. Be it outdoors or indoors, historical or contemporary, art or literature, film or live performances, the possibilities of how one spends the evening is entirely up to the visitor. Some of the major events from this year’s Culture Night included comedian and actress Allie O’Rourke’s free show at Hysteria Comedy Club with fellow Irish comics taking to the stage; a bright and colourful evening Bike Disco that took over Phoenix Park; the Italian Institute of Culture’s film festival that screened nine short films; and a historical guided tour that took visitors through Glasnevin Cemetery, highlighting the names and stories that helped shaped Ireland.
I was so very lucky to take part in one of my community’s events to celebrate local diversity and creativity. Bray Churches Together launched an art exhibition at Bray Methodist Church on Florence Road on Culture Night, which showcased local art and individuality. With over forty artists’ work on display, the standard was incredibly high and included multiple mediums and art styles. The pencil, acrylic, watercolour, ceramics and mixed media pieces on display were all produced by local artists in the Wicklow area - one of which was myself.
The exhibition was my first official public appearance as an artist. My exhibited work was a watercolour piece called ‘Shiver.’ It is an atmospheric tree piece that is greatly inspired by my love of all things slightly eerie yet beautiful. I also drew inspiration from Wicklow landscapes such as Devil’s Glen and Glendalough. I tend to be drawn towards portraiture and character studies when doing art, so I was very happy to try my hand at a nature piece for a change. I am pleased that I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new. ‘Shiver,’ to my delight, was very well received on the launch night and attracted many viewers throughout the course of the event. It was later revealed to me that my piece had in fact been sold, with a second patron approaching me about commissioning a painting with a similar subject matter. A great success for a debut!
The exhibition was a great hit. Entry was free to the public for the entire five days, and refreshments were provided on the launch night. A presentation film of all the artists with their works played on every screen in the hall. It was great to see participating creators mingling and interacting with the public. The atmosphere was buzzing with enthusiasm. Everyone in attendance was sharing an experience that tied them all together - their love of art. I spent my time during Culture Night making connections with members of local art groups - amateurs and professionals alike - and taking inspiration from the various styles and compositions surrounding me. The youngest contributor to the exhibition was a twelve year old girl, the daughter of one of the event organisers, and she had two of her character portraits on display. It was lovely to know that she was just as enthusiastic about the event as I was. The both of us found the experience new and exciting as two prospective artists. I have had a great interest in art since a young age, and have grown up being surrounded by it, due to my parents coming from artistic backgrounds. Throughout my artistic journey, they have encouraged me to challenge myself and further develop my style, and were the reason why I submitted my piece to the exhibition in the first place. I owe a lot to their support in nurturing my creativity.
Over the course of the five days it was open, I took shifts at the exhibition to act as an artist representative, greeting visitors and helping with any purchases of artworks. This was a great opportunity to speak with people from Bray, Greystones, elsewhere in Ireland and beyond, and ask about their interest in art. One memorable art enthusiast that was especially interested in the landscapes was an Australian woman. She was on her holidays in Ireland and happened to stroll by the church hall by chance. She stayed a while and chatted, mentioning she was only visiting Bray for the day and was not expecting to tick ‘see an art gallery’ off her sightseeing to-do list.
Culture Night is a celebration for everyone to take part in, whether you are a creator, artist, organiser, or audience member.
Culture Night is a celebration for everyone to take part in, whether you are a creator, artist, organiser, or audience member. Getting involved is the best way to celebrate our country’s diversity, meet new people, indulge in organised activities, and spend time with friends and family. There is something of interest for everyone every year, so when we begin to approach next year’s festival (20th September, 2024), do check out local creative events that celebrate the rich cultures here in Ireland!