Public Affairs

Dublin’s Culture Night

As hundreds of culture seekers ambled in and out of Dublin’s museums, galleries, churches and historic houses, the streets were filled with the sounds of music and excited voices. Meadhbh Monahan joined them for Culture Night.

Not to be mistaken for another Friday night in the capital, Culture Night on 23 September offered something different for the families, couples and lone explorers taking in the array of sights and sounds.

Colourful balloons denoted where free entrance and entertainment was available. Irish music wafted out of the Grand Social on Liffey Street, while the Tallaght Youth Band attracted crowds to Temple Bar playing the Black Eyed Peas hit ‘I Gotta Feeling’ on their brass instruments. Not too far away, on South Frederick Street, the MaSamba band was arriving back from its march which had started at Grafton Street, followed by curious onlookers.

Outside the Doorway Gallery a white marquee hosted Dr Sketchy’s anti-art school, where alternative life drawing classes were underway. Meanwhile, Tintin and Snowy entertained onlookers outside the International Bookshop, where the classic tales of the young Belgian reporter were on display.

At the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar a permaculture exhibition invited visitors to bring seeds and plants in exchange for a book celebrating the visual arts projects at the centre between 2001 and 2006. The publication includes works by Irish and international artists such as Martha Rosler, William McKeown and Felix Gonzales Torres.

“The plants and seeds will be used to rejuvenate the balcony as a place for artists and writers to come and take in the sights and sounds of Temple Bar,” Rachel Gilbourne, its assistant curator told eolas.

At Leinster House, hourly guided tours of the corridors of power were underway. Before we began, the usher Alan was approached by a young girl who gave him a colourful envelope addressed: ‘To Mr Kenny’, which he promised to put the Taoiseach’s pigeon-hole.

The history of the building, from its former use as the Duke’s ducal residence, its acquisition by the Royal Dublin Society and its role as the Irish Parliament since 1922, was retold.

An American Civil War flag (the second green colour of the 69th New York infantry regiment), which was presented to Ireland by President John F Kennedy in 1963, takes pride of place at the bottom of the stairs.

In the foyer, surrounded by busts of former taoisigh and overlooked by a portrait of Mary McAleese, presidential hopeful David Norris was mingling with guests.

“It’s a wonderful night,” he told eolas.

Norris felt that Leinster House was “the perfect place for Culture Night” because the public could get an insight to how the laws of the land were made. He praised the ushers saying: “They are great, with a wealth of valuable knowledge.”

On the plasterwork in the ceiling of the Seanad chamber, Norris said he had recognised it as “a masterpiece of the art of plasterwork perfected by Michael Stapleton and his school.”

In the early 1980s, the ceiling had begun fall into disrepair therefore skilled craftspeople replaced all missing sections of the ceiling using moulds taken from the ceiling. This ensured that it was an exact replica of Stapleton’s original.

“It is important to note that it was young Irish talent which recovered that ceiling. We have the talented young people and we should let them know that we recognise that not all the masterpieces are from the 17th or 18th century,” the Georgian enthusiast stated.

He commended Culture Night, saying: “These treasures, whether buildings or artefacts, are the property of the Irish people therefore the people should have access to them.”

Now in its fifth year in Dublin, Culture Night 2011 took place in 30 cities, including Belfast and Derry.

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