Ireland’s cultural past, present and future were on display across Dublin city streets on Friday for Culture Night. Those out enjoying it could mix guided tours of the city’s most prominent historical and architectural sites with performances from its promising next generation of artists and entertainers.
Nestled in the heart of Temple Bar, Meeting House Square was the main performance space for the evening. Acts including Pólca 4 displayed the best of Ireland’s traditional music to an animated crowd, with a raucous set of jigs, reels and dances. Singer-songwriter Tadgh showed off the more modern and experimental side of our music scene, with a carefully constructed show of costumes, choreography and sing-alongs.
Off the beaten track, however, there were promising glimpses of Ireland’s musical future, for those willing to dig for the slightly less-publicised gems. Ahead of their debut album launch, Shane Regan, of Dublin-based group Akrobat, said “for a smaller, more avant-garde band, playing in a place like this isn’t an opportunity we get all too often”.
The alt-rock band provided electronic, experimental sounds against the backdrop of The Library Project, a small independent gallery, with live digital visual accompaniments provided by artist Fiona McDonald.
Even outside of the pre-designated performance areas, Dublin’s streets came to life in a way that hasn’t been seen in quite some time. For a Friday night, Temple Bar was particularly lively, while the recently pedestrianised Capel Street proved its worth as a social space, where the eclectic freeform music group Acid Granny drew a huge crowd in the second of a series of pop-up shows they did across the city.
“Everyone’s a bit less stir-crazy, there’s less of a mob mentality this year”, said Kev Foran, between sets with the lively jazz group The New Brass Kings. “Compared to last year, it feels like people haven’t just been let loose, they’re here to take it all in.”
Laicia, head volunteer for Culture Night at Meeting House Square, echoed that sentiment. “There’s an expectation that these events can get messy, but it’s all been well-behaved… good, clean fun for all ages”.
Away from the noise, some of Dublin’s most iconic buildings provided rare glimpses inside their doors, as well as specialised talks from experts.
It would have been impossible for anyone to experience everything Culture Night had to offer. Some meticulously planned their schedule and ended the night with aching feet, while some wandered freely to see where the sights and sounds would take them among the 300 plus events spread across the city in a short time period.
“The variety is great… to come from a debate on the housing crisis, and to wander up to something like this is really great to see” said Brandon Brown, visiting from Canada, at an open-air screening of the 2007 film Once, starring musician Glen Hansard, at Barnardo Square.