Stepping out. Art installation, O’Connell Street.
Pic: Lisa Jarvis
I WONDER what the Dublin I came to as a young student in the 1990s would have made of Culture Night.
The city of 1995 had a different attitude to public displays of culture than nowadays.
It was a town where you didn’t stroll around Smithfield at night; if you did you weren’t seeking out an exhibition space.
Culture may have been abundant but it certainly wasn’t public. Or at least I don’t remember it that way, unless you counted the raggle taggle leftovers busking their way to obscurity on Grafton Street.
The idea of 190 venues throwing open their doors to all and any comers for the night was unheard of. Maybe that happened in New York but not in pre-Celtic Tiger Dublin.
I mean, who’d go to the pubs then?
Maybe I did wander into a gallery from time to time back, if only to warm up my shivering student bones in winter.
When I hit the town in those days it was usually to the Mean Fiddler or the Buttery Bar in Trinity College with whatever student cash I could muster.
Times change, of course. The arrival of the Celtic Tiger meant some parts of the city were cleaned up, if not completely rebuilt.
Places like Smithfield were now, at the very least, lit up at night, meaning a trip to the The Cobblestone didn’t involve an encounter with wallet-grabbing youths.
I moved on likewise. One too many Mark E. Smith shows can have that effect.
So did Dublin.
Upwards of 160,000 people turned out on Culture Night last year, we’re told.
If you walk around the city centre next Friday night you’ll encounter many of these people again, outnumbering the usual nightly mix of tourists, pub-goers, shift workers and the homeless.
I joined the Culture Night hordes for the first – and only – time in 2010, when a date and I visited, among other venues, the Hugh Lane Gallery.
A taste of culture…and romance. Francis Bacon’s Three Studies.
Pic: Tate, London
I nervously tried to impress her as we chatted beneath the gut-wrenching violence of Francis Bacon’s Three Studies For Figures At The Base Of A Crucifixion.
There are more romantic places to hold such conversations I’m sure.
I haven’t stepped out on Culture Night since.
The event has obviously gone from strength to strength in my absence though. This year will see a concert orchestra perform in Meeting House Square, an event which risks being upstaged (in my mind at least) by a clown choir in Blanchardstown.
There’s food in The Church, or of tea at the house of The Dead, among dozens of other options.
Throw in standing in the rain for a Nightlink bus and you’ve covered about everything Friday night Dublin has to offer.
As for me I’d planned to hit the Culture Night trail again last year but it clashed with another major event – I was getting married that day.
And the girl who stood beneath the Bacon that night?
She was my bride.