Culture Night: Gaining a wider reach in the social distancing era

Trying to capitalise on opportunities presents difficulties for an event usually based on live settings

Paul Regan’s film On In-Between sees him drifting along River Liffey.

Paul Regan’s film On In-Between sees him drifting along River Liffey.


For many, Culture Night, which has now been around for 15 years, means going to real places in a world of buzzy streets and chance creative encounters: queues outside museums or studios, learning new skills at workshops, standing shoulder-to-shoulder watching live performance.

Alas, not this year. But in the spirit of keeping on keeping on, Culture Night is attempting to capitalise on the opportunities the present difficulties for live events presents, where we can experience culture or creativity in places we wouldn’t normally be able to attend. With online events, what you lose in live-ness you gain in wider reach and much greater access and choice.

This Friday, September 18th from 4pm till late, Culture Night hits, with fewer events but a still impressive lineup of live (limited capacity) and online activities. There are 280 “safe, offline” events, as the programme puts it, and 316 online, and counting, in this year’s Culture Night, from workshops to virtual tours, family-friendly experiences to live performances and demonstrations.

A decision to go ahead with Culture Night was made as early as March/April. National coordinator Aimée van Wylick was tasked by the Arts Council and Dublin City Council to pull the behemoth together, partnering with local authorities and cultural organisations throughout the island of Ireland, and the team decided to present Culture Night as a hybrid event, with both online and in person. Since then a series of plans were made, scrapped and remade, with evolving scenario planning.

Embracing the positive

“We’re not trying to draw masses of people to gather coming into the city centre,” says van Wylick, but she’s urging people to plug into the programme and plan ahead for what they might do on the night online or in person, and to “support the arts organisations who’ve worked so hard putting a programme together, physically or online. This is the time to see what they’ve been up to: while we’ve been locked down, people have been really busy.

“Despite the impacts of Covid-19 on the arts sector and Culture Night, we are keen to embrace the positive, which is that by presenting an expansive online programme we are able to give access to content to a wider audience, locally in Ireland as well as abroad.”

While there are fewer events, going online or live offline (such as self-guided audio tours) means capacity is greatly increased (or unlimited), so more people can potentially enjoy them. Many events also have a longer life, available after September 18th, creating a legacy.

This year Culture Night and the Department of Foreign Affairs reached out to embassies and Irish cultural organisations abroad, and cities such as New York, Berlin, Paris and London are presenting a digital programme. “As well as keeping Culture Night going for regular visitors, with more virtual events we want to open that up, to produce digital content abroad for people in Ireland to engage with, and vice versa, to draw their local audiences to tap into Culture Night in Ireland.”

Double-check on for late changes and additions to the lineup. Live in-person events require planning ahead for access and being more mindful. Covid-19 guidelines and safety details are on the website.

Event Pick'n’Mix

Genesis (online): An immersive flagship digital show commissioned by Dublin City Council and created by multidisciplinary artist Aoife Dunne, promises to “playfully subvert the appearance of societal rebirth” and create a virtual universe, using sculpture, sound, performance and technology.

The Liminal Space: Culture Night Dublin commissioned four artists to respond to the urban geography of the city, focusing on the liminal “crossing over” space, where you’ve left something behind, but aren’t yet fully in something else. Paul Regan’s film On In-Between sees him drifting along river Liffey; Tom Lane’s Stream of Consciousness audio walk narrated by Olwen Fouéré guides you on a walk along the River Liffey, with a soundscape about the history and stories behind Dublin’s bridges; Inni-K: Dawn & Dusk Song & Film Project celebrate Dublin city parks through song, heralding the dawn and serenading the dusk in parks, which were a lifeline during lockdown; Weedscapes at the Hugh Lane by Renate Pekowska is an animated celebration of biodiversity set to harpsichord recordings – considering common weeds as sublime and delightful.

Sleepertown: A self-guided listening walk through Gorey (live), immersing people in six sonic artworks along the way.

Women on Women Awards: Outlandish Theatre Platform (online): Film portraits of five inspiring women who contributed to radical social change and gender equality. Caoimhe Butterly, Catherine Joyce, Éadaoin Kelly, Marie Mulholland and Mavis Ramazani introduce their work and vision, with filmmaker Jeda de Brí and Outlandish Theatre Platform .

Galway 2020 Aerial/Sparks Art on Inis Oirr (live): Connect in person with the ocean wilderness, via seven European artists, writers and composers’ artworks, inspired by research expeditions on the Marine Institute Ireland’s RV Celtic Explorer. Viewers walk around Inis Oírr, the smallest of the Aran Islands, to discover sound works.

Welcoming the Stranger: (online) Dance piece inspired by stories of migrants and refugees who have made Kerry their home.

Tilt: Remixed (online): Tilt by Croi Glan Dance Company at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, live and recorded, remixed for online.

Walking Whid/Walking Story (online): Led by Tuam Thinker in Residence Oein De Bhardúin, with stories and folklore about Tuam’s Traveller community.

Kilkenny Arts Office poetry trail (live): Work by 12 local poets displayed in city shop windows (or call the poetry line at 1800-272994 to listen).

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra: Performing live – with a maximum 37 players, without an audience – from the National Concert Hall, streamed worldwide on and RTÉ Lyric FM. Gavin Maloney conducts works including Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with the orchestra’s former principal clarinet player John Finucane as soloist and Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony No 4.

Patrick Kavanagh Centre: Inniskeen has a bilingual evening of music and poetry, with Culture Night trailblazer composer Michael Gallen, Scullion and poet Caitríona Ní Chléirchín. (Limited-capacity live; also streamed.)

The Source Arts Centre, Tipperary: Live dance performance by the Iseli-Chiodi Dance Company behind glass, with the boardwalk as viewing area.

My Generation: Teenagers from Cork Migrant Centre unveil public artwork drawing on experiences of teenage life in 2020 Ireland, by teenage asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, working with artist Kate O’Shea, supported by the Glucksman.

Night at the Museum: At the Chester Beatty is an online audio-tour with curators introducing art from the collection dealing with the day’s darker hours, plus Fireworks from Tokyo, Goya in the dark, and tutorials and demonstrations for children and adults.

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