Ciara McDonnell asks our culture vultures what they’ll be


Here are the things you should check out for Cork's Culture Night

As Culture Night returns, Ciara McDonnell asks our culture vultures what they’ll be

Here are the things you should check out for Cork's Culture Night

ON Friday night museums, galleries, churches, studios, parks, government buildings and performance spaces will throw open their doors late into the night for one reason only – to celebrate Irish culture.

Now in its eleventh year, Culture Night attracts over 400,000 of us every year, capturing our rich heritage and showcasing the new and vibrant ways in which Irish culture is evolving, year on year with a huge countrywide programme of free events.

This year, Culture Night has appointed Trailblazers who they feel embody the spirit of the Irish arts, right now. They are diverse and vibrant and they are challenging the boundaries of how we conceive and perceive art, which make them the perfect ambassadors for Irish culture. We asked them for their Culture Night recommendations, highlights and top tips.

The Street Artist: Solus

“It’s a great event,” says Dublin-based artist Solus, one of the leading lights of Ireland’s street art scene. “I’m thrilled to be involved with something that encourages the arts here in Ireland. It’s fantastic to see creativity being encouraged across all mediums, and the whole community coming together for an event.

“I’m delighted to see all the galleries opening their doors to the event.”

The artist’s roots remain deep in street culture, where he began. “I would go out at night with a few friends. We had stencils and wheat pastes and we painted during the night,” he explains. “I never thought anybody would notice my artwork. I enjoyed it so I was doing it for myself.

“After doing this for a few years my artwork would pop up online and sometimes in newspapers. Eventually I had people emailing looking to purchase artwork and I was offered a solo art exhibition in Dublin in 2012.”

The nationwide reach of Culture Night is one of its great appeals, according to the artist.

“You’re going to get to see some of the most exciting work that’s coming out of Ireland at the moment – it’s a real taster of the Irish arts scene.”

The New Wave Singer: Katie Laffan

Fresh from two blazing appearances at Electric Picnic, singer Katie Laffan is flying high. This funky chanteuse is one of the most exciting artists to come out of Ireland in the last number of years. “This is my fourth year attending Culture Night, and I never thought I’d be asked to be involved with it, so I am thrilled,” she says. Culture Night is an opportunity for artists to show their diversity and the ways in which we are changing as a people, says the artist. “Irish music has exploded with genres recently,” she says. “You can find any kind of music you like these days when you go to gigs. It’s been really exciting to see it move in this way - modernising and evolving into its own new wave.” What does Irish culture mean to Laffan? As an artist steeped in groove and soul and tunes that are not necessarily indigenous to Ireland, she is both enthusiastic about the new and deferential to the old. “We create our own culture and with something like Culture Night you can see the old and the new, and be aware of what’s out there. That way, you help shape what’s going on.” Katie’s top tip for Culture Night this year? “Meeting House Square in Temple Bar has lots of great live music and it’s central to other events and galleries too.”

The Performance Artist: Blindboy Boatclub

He may be one controversial half of comedy hip hop duo The Rubberbandits, but performance artist Blindboy Boatclub uses his platform to cover some extremely culturally relevant topics, making him an ideal trailblazer for this year’s Culture Night. Last year, Blindboy made waves when he spoke out about the mental health crisis in Ireland, and is a firm supporter of the Repeal The Eighth movement. His forthcoming debut novel The Gospel According To Blindboy is a comment on modern Ireland – the likes of which, the publishers tell us, has never been read before. Culture, says Blindboy, does not necessarily refer to art. “I take a very broad view of culture. For me, it’s whatever people are actively choosing to get involved in. Can we call an art gallery or a theatre culturally relevant if ordinary people aren’t showing up?” Culture Night, he says, is a fantastic way to democratise the arts. “With The Bandits, as artists we’d consider ourselves to be socially engaged. We get a horn off the democratisation of art and theatre. To put it back into the hands of ordinary people, through mediums that are relevant to them. Such as the Internet. In fairness to Culture Night, it’s fairly open like that.”

Doyenne Of Irish Music: Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh

As the lead singer and fiddler with world famous band Altan, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh sees her involvement with Culture Night 2017 as a way to give back. “It’s an incredible honour to be asked to be a trailblazer for this year’s Culture Night,” she says from her Donegal base. “As well as that, at this stage in my life, I want to encourage people to embrace the rich culture that we have in our country, especially our own native artists that we have here, and who should be given as much backing as possible.” The musician makes a huge effort to encourage new and emerging artists across all mediums when they are starting out, because that’s how she got her start. “When I was trying to make a mark as a musician, other people were very willing to help me, and I want to try to do the same for others.” Irish music is experiencing a huge moment right now, says Ní Mhaonaigh; particularly when it comes to traditional music. “Young musicians are showcasing extraordinary musicianship – every generation brings its own flavour to a musical heritage and it’s amazing to see the new musicians and what they are about.” The appeal of Culture Night is clear to the musician. “This is a country-wide opportunity to celebrate what being Irish is.”

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