This year’s instalment of Culture Night will be held on the 17th of September, with events taking place across the country. Now in its sixteenth year, the event offers culture enthusiasts the opportunity to come together to celebrate the arts and culture of Ireland. Running from 4pm until late, previously inaccessible venues will be free to the public. Painters, musicians, poets, dancers and writers are just some of the performers who will be hosting events, workshops, tours, talks and live demos.
While all events are free to the public, The Arts Council of Ireland has a strict ‘Pay The Artist’ policy, whereby all performing and participating artists must be paid for their work.
First held in 2006, Culture Night was initially confined to the area of Temple Bar to coincide with the fifteen-year celebration of the tourist hot-spot, but now Culture Night includes events all over Dublin city centre. The event attracted some 40,000 attendees to 40 venues which offered a variety of free events.
“For me, however, the magic of Culture Night will always lie in the adventure of exploring the city at night with thousands of other people in pursuit of new cultural experiences,”
“The decision to develop Culture Night was hugely inspired by a visit to Copenhagen in 2004 where I experienced Kulturnatten - Culture Night, Copenhagen - which had been set up in 1993,” recounts Gráinne Millar, co-founder of Culture Night Dublin. “I knew straight away that Dublin was ready for its own version. There was a huge unmet need among the people of Dublin to have new and different ways of experiencing the cultural life of the city.”
The Danish-based model received the support of the former Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism, securing a €20,000 grant to develop a “shared vision to connect the cultural life of Dublin with its citizens”. A year later, following a hugely successful debut, the number of participating venues doubled, with events taking place throughout Dublin City, attracting half a million visitors. “Once we had proven the model worked in 2006 it began to take on a life of its own,” explains Millar.
This momentum led to the inclusion of cultural experiences in Limerick, Cork and Galway for the first time in 2008, with twenty counties hosting events by 2010. The event of Culture Night was so popular that it spread to major UK cities in 2012, with events held in London, Liverpool, Leeds & Newcastle, before nights in Paris and New York propelled the event to a global celebration of the arts in 2017.
Despite the difficulties faced by the arts sector since the introduction of restrictions in March of last year, Culture Night (coordinated by The Arts Council of Ireland since 2019) has been adapted to incorporate online events this year. “I would not have envisaged online events in 2006”, admits Gráinne. “That has been a fantastic innovation and platform to keep Culture Night visible and connected to the public during the Covid 19 pandemic.”
Thanks to this innovative thinking, much of Culture Night 2021 can be sampled and enjoyed from the comfort of your couch. From language taster classes offering sixteen different dialects, to sketching tutorials, creative writing, dance workshops and baking demonstrations – there’s something for everyone. “For me, however, the magic of Culture Night will always lie in the adventure of exploring the city at night with thousands of other people in pursuit of new cultural experiences,” says the event’s co-founder.
For those keen to get out and sample a more traditional Culture Night experience, there will be a variety of live events on, including over a dozen walking tours across Dublin.
You can take the Walking Tour of Art Galleries, passing by a live performance of an Italian Saxophone Quartet at Fitzwilliam Square on your way, before listening to theatre excerpts at Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street. With headphones, you can join an audio walking tour discussing the history of LGBTQIA+ in Dublin, listen to storytelling and poetry or follow a guided walking tour of Viking and Medieval Dublin, offering a multi-sensory experience. A group can also attend an audio-visual tour while strolling Grand Canal Dock. A treasure hunt will be hosted by the Little Museum of Dublin, while comedians will return to the Grand Social for Stand Up for Culture Night.
Admission is free to some of Dublin’s favourite attractions, including the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Castle and open-top bus tours around Dublin (booking is advised for each of these events as they promise to be popular).
For those who have been missing nightclubs, the silent disco in Merrion Square offers the perfect opportunity to brush up on your dance moves, listening to sets from international DJs on three channels through provided headphones.
Between 4pm-6pm, you can join Alternative Dublin: Dublin Street Art Walking Tour. Starting at the Grand Social, the tour will guide you to over thirty works of street art, including murals, graffiti, stickers and paste ups. The tour is sure to include Love Lane, as well as a trip through Temple Bar and Portobello.
A full evening of traditional Irish music and dance awaits in the Georgian surrounds of Áras Chrónáin in Clondalkin, for those who have missed out on the Ghaeltacht experience. Craic is guaranteed at Oíche Rince (Dance Night), where there will be Irish Set Dancing and Céilí Dancing Lessons from 8pm. If you would rather spectate than participate, there will also be a seisiúin cheoil, where visitors can listen to traditional Irish music by Muintir Chrónáin from 5pm-11pm.
“For students, Culture Night is a wonderful exploration of the depth, diversity and scale of the cultural offering of Dublin.”
Temple Bar, where it all began, plays host to a variety of live demos, including screen printing and mural painting. Visitors can attend acting lessons in The Gaiety Theatre, before stopping off for a pint and a pub quiz at Mary’s Bar. On the way home, the illumination of the stained-glass windows at the Smock Alley Theatre at Cow’s Lane provides a scenic end to the night.
In all, 200 venues across Ireland will host over 250 events during this year’s Culture Night. To facilitate visitors in the capital, Dublin Bus will be providing free buses every 20 minutes, starting on College Green, Aston Quay and Bachelor’s Walk, which will bring visitors to and from the cultural quarters.
“Culture Night opens the doors for people to feel comfortable meeting artists, talking to them about the work and learning about different artistic practises and processes,” states Millar. “For students, Culture Night is a wonderful exploration of the depth, diversity and scale of the cultural offering of Dublin. I would hope that it appeals to their innate sense of curiosity to seek out and discover new experiences.”
More information, including a list of online and in person programmes and events, is available at www.culturenight.ie.