In 2006, Culture Night started as a small event in Dublin, that saw the museums, galleries and historic houses, to name a few, open their doors for free to the general public after hours. Last night, it kicked off its 13th year which has expanded to all counties in Ireland in recent years.
The event, which is run by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and partners with the regional arts offices, local authorities and cultural organisations. It is aimed at encouraging more people to visit cultural venues and experience local culture.
In the capital, over 300 events took place across the city and suburbs, ranging from musical events to the most historic places Dublin has to offer. With over 400,000 in attendance across the whole country, The Circular went along last night to see what it was all about.
From the minute I stepped off the bus at Trinity College, the place was buzzing. Dublin city on a Friday evening usually attracts a big crowd but this was different. There was a great sense of atmosphere in the air. Families, couples, friends. It seemed that the whole country had travelled into town to immerse themselves in the culture Dublin had to offer.
The first stop on the list was the Chester Beatty Library at Dublin Castle. Home to the many artifacts from all across the world, belonging to the late Sir Alfred Chester Beatty. There were events for everyone, from family storytelling to guided tours it was a must-see on the night. If you didn’t make it on Culture Night, it is definitely worth seeing as it is one of Ireland’s most favoured National Cultural Institutions.
Second up was Dublin Castle itself for the main event. This was certainly the main attraction of the night as it was host to the ‘Open-Air Concert’ and broadcast live on RTE television and radio. Big names such as The RTE Concert Orchestra, Aine Cahil, Daithi and The Strypes all played to the thousands in the crowd. It was a free event and had crowds flocking to the venue to get a taste of the best music Ireland has to offer. Definitely, it was the highlight of the night as the ambiance of the crowd was unbeatable and they showcased some of the best homegrown talents.
As I stayed longer than anticipated at Dublin Castle, I didn’t give myself much time to head northside of the city and check out the GPO (General Post Office), one of Ireland’s most famous buildings. With live music from Bray children’s traditional band to dancing the place was bursting with culture. Limited edition Culture Night postcards were available to send for free to family and friends, courtesy of An Post as a nice gesture.
As the evening drew to a close, the streets were still full and no sign of the night slowing down as I walked through Temple Bar. The music and dance continued, people from home and away still on a high and the atmosphere was still electric.
For anyone who has not experienced culture night, it is definitely a must for next year and all the years to come after that. The real message behind Culture Night is to get people out and visiting the sights and immersing themselves in the culture their city has to offer; and going by last nights crowd, I think they just may have achieved their goal.
Here are some images of what you can expect when you visit The Chester Beatty Library.