A Culture Night to remember: 350,000 turn out for occasion

Crowds stay on streets after visiting museums, galleries, theatres, churches, studios

Cities and towns across Ireland came alive as more than 350,000 people gathers to celebrate Culture Night and peek behind closed doors.

There were attractions for all ages and interests with more than 3,000 free events in 1,500 venues nationally.

Good weather and music attracted crowds to stay on the streets after visiting events in museums, galleries, theatres, churches and artists’ studios.

Events ranged from Belfast's Big Gay Wedding and slowest bike race, to Cork's transformation of the College of Commerce with 3D projections.


The trend of buses and trains full to the brim leaving Dublin on a Friday evening was reversed as thousands of people flocked to events in the city, which had more than 250 venues taking part.

Aimée van Wylick, Culture Night co-ordinator, said the numbers attending looked to be higher than last year with more locations in added to the programme this year.

She said interactive events helped make the night special, including the conversion of Dublin’s O’Connell Street into a mini-village, with a giant version of snakes and ladders and a giant drum.

“There’s a real buzz and bustling atmosphere,” she said.

“And a real sense of exploration. Everybody is out in the streets enjoying great culture.

“Seeing the amount of families around, even now at 9pm, it’s just a magical and unusual view. It’s a real positive feel here.”

The evening kicked off in Dublin with a currach race on the Liffey River starting at the Jeanie Johnston ship to the Ha'penny Bridge and back at 5.30pm.

Klara Foti, originally from Budapest but has lived in Dublin for seven years, said she attended night almost every year.

“I love it. There’s always something new to try every year. I always enjoy it,” she said.

Music, performances and balloons filled the streets as people strolled to different events.

It was not long until queues started to form outside popular events including Dublin Castle, Book of Kells and the Wax Museum.

Unsurprisingly, the hot topic in the long queues of people curious to investigate inside the Freemasons’ Hall were conspiracy theories around the organisation.

Women, who are not normally allowed as members, were present in large numbers at the Molesworth Street headquarters on Friday night.

Maya Velasquez said she could not get in last year due to the queues, but this year she managed to get through.

“So much mystery surrounds it. It’s a very beautiful building. Although, even after the tour, it is still a mystery to me what goes on in there,” she said.

Long wait

Maura Mulhall said she had been waiting 10 years to come and see the hall. "It's magnificent. I'm delighted I made it here to see it," she said.

Guide and member Daniel Stanford fielded question after question around myths surrounding the organisation.

“To join, it’s simple, you just ask,” he told the group. “It’s like the scouts for big boys. It’s about trying to be a better person.”

Another popular event was a chance to get a tour inside Leinster House.

The demand to get inside the Houses of the Oireachtas was much higher than the 1,650 tickets made available to the public.

Mary McMahon said she had enjoyed the tour of the Dáil and Seanad chambers.

“All ages are here. You don’t normally get the opportunity to do things like this,” she said.

Merrion Square was one of the busiest Culture Night hubs, thanks to Downstairs Dublin, organised by The Irish Times, which took over basement spaces around the historic square.

Punters could change their life in four easy basements, with a quick rave, a short, sharp boxing lesson, a recovery massage, and a bit of poetic therapy.

Irish Times feature writer Rosita Boland launched her book Generations: 10 decades of Irish life during the night.

Food featured strongly on the programme, with cultural food tutorials, tastings and demonstrations.

Hundreds of concerts played across the country. Le Galaxie were at the National College of Art and Design, while singer-songwriter Gavin James performed at Imro's Copyright House. Singer-songwriter Lisa O'Neill played the Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire.

Mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra was part of a live broadcast in Meeting House Square in Temple Bar, while Celine Byrne was performing in Christ Church Cathedral. Choral ensemble Moving Voices performed as Gaeilge at the Waterways Ireland Visitor Centre on Grand Canal Quay in Ringsend. Hard Working Class Heroes took over a Downstairs Dublin basement.

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty is an Irish Times journalist