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Culture Night is back for its 11th year - and it just won't stop growing

Despite funding cuts and stretched budgets, Ireland’s culture-makers are putting their all into the night.

IN POST-RECESSION Ireland, the landscape has changed for those working in the arts.

Funding cuts and financial pressures on punters have meant that money is tighter – and places have to come up with new and inventive ways of getting the public to visit their gallery, space, or event.

On 16 September, one of the year’s most prominent cultural events will provide a key opportunity for culture-makers and the public to meet and share their thoughts and work.

For the eleventh year in a row, Culture Night will see towns, villages and cities across the island of Ireland becoming arts and culture hubs – and all for free.

Indeed, Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, described the night as “an invitation for the public to get closer to culture and explore their towns and cities on this special night, unlike no other”.

Dublin City Council’s Arts Officer Ray Yeates told TheJournal.ie that the event “doesn’t seem to want to stop growing – there are more and more venues every year”.

He said that what the organisers (of which Dublin City Council is a major player) are looking out for is the impact throughout the rest of the year. But those who would like to see Culture Night broadened out beyond one night will be disappointed.

“There is a lot of talk about it maybe becoming Culture Weekend, but that would actually stretch the resources because everyone does special programming and they don’t get extra funding for it,” said Yeates. “We are post-recession and we really want to see cultural organisations getting a greater year-round audience – that’s the greater self-interest for them.”

The ideas of access and engagement are central to Culture Night – but the question is whether that can be sustained beyond the night itself.

“I think it’s totally true that people may not have been in the national gallery but on Culture Night they go for the first time,” said Yeates. “Here is a special thing that I can bring the children to, it’s free and we can go and have a hot chocolate afterwards and head home on the bus. It has a certain crowd that gathers around it.”

It is starting to say to people culture is a central part of Dublin’s economy, of Dublin’s life – and you can’t be separating cultural night and economic life out from each other.

He said that the face of arts funding has been fundamentally altered in post-recession Ireland, and that though funding has decreased, it has spread out, giving people a spectrum of funding.

With that in mind, he said Culture Night is also a chance to do some marketing and get the name of an organisation or location out. “Cultural organisations who might not like the word ‘business’ are now taking on the things of business, but equally, businesses are taking on the cloak of culture.”

He added:

It is always about building our cultural habit in younger people. Culture is a habit and it is a permission and for some reason that permission exists on Culture Night.

What’s happening this year

This year, Culture Night has its own ambassadors – Pauline Bewick, alt-pop duo the Heathers, musician and poet Ronan Ó Snodaigh and author Colin Barrett.

While some of last year’s most popular venues are returning to the event, there will also be some new venues added to the fun.

In Dublin, that includes the museum telling the story of Ireland’s history of emigration, EPIC Ireland; the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland on St Stephen’s Green, which will host a 3D animated light show about its history; and a slew of events on Smithfield Square.

download (13) Last year's Culture Night bus trip with TheJournal.ie

In one of the more unusual events, the international music project Girls & Stations, developed by Rochus Aust, founder of the 1st German Electrophonic Orchestra, will see the performance starting in Heuston before travelling by train to Clara.

In Cork, the anthology On the Banks: Cork City in Poems and Songs, edited by Alannah Hopkins, will be get its launch on the night, while Cork County Hall will be home to a Comic Art Exhibition and Q&A hosted by Marvel illustrator Will Sliney.

Ashford Studios will be open for a tour in Wicklow, while Letterkenny Town Park will premier Inishowen Carnival Group’s brand new work Elemental, a blend of large-scale sculptural installation, ambient music, lighting, and dance performance.

It’s not just an island of Ireland event – Culture Night will also be celebrated in New York, Paris and Leeds.

Here at home, however, Dublin Bus will provide free buses every 20 minutes starting on Bachelor’s Walk, Aston Quay, College Green and Eden Quay (complete with trad music), while in Cork Bus Éireann will provide three complimentary bus routes, and the DART will offer 100 free family passes for travel on Culture Night itself.

Culture night is brought by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in partnership with the regional arts offices, local authorities, and cultural organisations throughout the island of Ireland.

The full programme of events and participating venues for Culture Night 2016 is available on www.culturenight.ie, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Keep an eye out for news of this year’s TheJournal Culture Night preview bus.

Read: Generations come together to celebrate 50 years of Ballymun>

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