‘I wanted it so anyone can see art, not just people who go to museums’

Culture Night thrives as crowds throng Dublin streets soaking up free entertainment

Now in its thirteenth year, Culture Night returned with its biggest programme to date as opera's, galleries and raves took over the streets of Ireland.

 

On a corner in Dublin’s Temple Bar, pedestrians stop at a shop window to watch an artist working on a painting of man standing beside a shopping trolley.

For Aga Szot, resident artist, being watched is nothing unusual. But Culture Night has brought more curious footfall.

“Sometimes you can have 20 people [at the window] and you can feel in your shoulders that something is going on outside,” she says.

Her art-folded-into-art approach - the view of her working being an installation in itself - is inspired by Francis Bacon.

“The idea is to surprise people; they expect to see a shop window. I am changing, I am eating, I am talking, but I am painting,” she says. “I wanted it so any pedestrian can see [art], not just people who go to museums.”

Szot has captured the spirit of Culture Night, a single evening in which thousands of people across Ireland soak up free late night entertainment, exemplifying the Irish arts. Now in its thirteenth year, it continues to thrive - the crowds wandering Dublin’s streets thumb the pages of a bulging programme.

At the nearby Ark venue the focus is, as always, on children. Groups of them are led by parents up winding stairs for a half hour of free mini-concerts, including a toy piano.

“There are two strands in the work that we do: there is the child as performer and the child as audience,” explains marketing manager Al Russell, betraying a sense of the detailed thought on display.

They will finish early to suit their visitors, just in time to avoid the alcohol-free rave due outside.

It is the first time Morning Gloryville will take place at night time, turning on its head the counter-intuitive premise of beginning the day with an early morning rave.

Head organiser William Meara says it is designed to create a conscious dancing environment free of intoxicants, and has been a regular city and festival fixture for the last few years.

“It’s people from all walks of life,” he says. “Traditionally we start at 6.30am; they will go and do some yoga, get a caffeine shot, do their massage, have a rave and go to work.”

After all Culture Night is partly designed to introduce people to things they may not otherwise encounter.

There are queues outside Christchurch Cathedral; at a free concert in Dublin Castle; and taking in tours of the famed Black Church Print Studio. The enthusiasm is easy to find.

“Just to discover Ireland, I suppose,” simplifies Aoibhin Masterson, a language student beginning the exploration with her friend Rosemary Llanes (22).

Turists are major beneficiaries too. “It’s really a great thing,” says Helena Coluccio. “I am from Italy and you have to pay a lot to go to museums. So it’s great to improve the love for culture.”