You can’t spell Culture without Cult

Arthurs Day
Arthur's Day

Well now, isn’t Dublin the exciting little town to live in at the moment. If we’re not playing destruction derby with our public transport system, we’re charging people for “free” bikes and hurling the nation’s pot of gold down a financial well. This week though, we’re taking pride in two of our greatest exports: Guinness and miserable, poor, underappreciated, tortured artists.

Today is Arthur’s Day. It was only pointed out to me yesterday that it’s Ar-Thursday. Geddit? I know, awful. Anyway, tonight at 17:59 Irish time, the whole world is supposed to pretend they drink the black stuff all the time and toast the man who negotiated a 9,000 year lease on half of Dublin City for the princely sum of £45 per year. Good luck finding that kind of deal on Daft. I’m a sincere fan of a pint of plain and have used a few pints as a substitute for dinner many, many times. I’m not terribly excited about tonight’s events though. Aside from the fact that the line-up of musical acts is incredibly dull, I don’t know if having ticketed events in some of the least Guinness-y pubs in Dublin is the right way to celebrate. I don’t know about you, but the last place I’d for a good pint would be places like Spy or Dakota. And why anyone would want to subject themselves to the Dirty Epics or Jerry Fish, I don’t know. I suppose it means the real Guinness drinkers can enjoy a good night in a decent pub like the Cobblestone or Grogan’s.

Me though, I’ll be in the right place at the right time, drinking the wrong thing. Seconds after the worldwide toast, we’ll be opening the new Jaki Irvine exhibition in Temple Bar Gallery. We’ll be smack in the middle of the chaos of Temple Bar at 6pm on Arthur’s Day… serving free wine. I might try to run for a sneaky one in the Ha’penny Bridge Inn before we open though. I won’t really get a chance to join in the greatest marketing exercise this country has ever seen later on in the night as I’ve gotta go and rehearse for…

Culture Night 2009

Yes, Culture Night is upon us once again. If Arthur’s Day is like St. Patrick’s Day without all the unnecessary history and religious themes, then Culture Night is like most Thursday nights in Dublin but with free buses for the plebs and no free wine. I don’t know what it is about Culture Night that brings people out in such huge numbers to see things they could see at any time during the year. Whether it’s the fact that the extended opening hours get the 9-5ers in, the condensed art-trail maps around the city, the buzz of the whole event or the fact that it’s actually advertised, people come out in force every year as if they’ve finally been given permission to step inside a gallery.

As many people have noted, it’s a terrible shame that so many people’s engagement with Ireland’s cultural venues is restricted to a few hours every September, but you can’t fault the night for what it achieves. In a week with some hefty competition in terms of event advertising, I’d wager that most people in Dublin are at least aware that Culture Night is happening. That can only be a good thing and the fact that this year’s event has spread out from Dublin city centre and is now a national event just shows that the interest is there, if only the art world would make more of a genuine effort to involve the general public all year round.

I’ll mention a few of my tips on where to go tomorrow night after the jump-click, but first I’ll plug some of our own fun. My band, Zabba, will be returning to our spiritual home where we played our first gig all the way back in… April. We’ll be playing in Monster Truck Gallery on Francis St, along with Little Xs for Eyes somewhere in the region between 10pm and midnight. The free Culture Night B bus will drop you at the top of the street. Lots of other galleries are closed by 8 or 10pm, so grab some fun juice and come have a sing-along and dance with us. We have new outfits.

“Frank Zappa, Abba and Talking Heads all meet in a gruesome head on collision driving bumper cars in a dream made of marshmallows” Declan Hurley, Gallery 27.

Earlier in the night, I’ll be taking part in a roaming performance that will likely take in Exchange Street, Temple Bar Square and at least one of the free Culture Night buses. We’re keeping things hush hush for the moment, but if you like kazoos, hip-hop and classical tunes… there’ll be fun happening all over between about 7:30-9:30pm and as the greatest lyricist of our time, R. Kelly, once said “Then after the show, It’s the after-party, And after the party, It’s the hotel lobby”. See you there.

Some recommendations of places worthy of a stop on your whirlwind cultural tour around Dublin on Culture Night. If you’re actually interested, you can get all the official info, including the 3 free buses around Dublin city, on and you can download a PDF programme and a mapalso.

I’ll start with some other stuff that’s not on the official list, most likely due to printing deadlines, lover’s tiffs or laziness.

  • The Douglas Hyde Gallery, apart from showing the brilliant Paki Smith show in their main gallery, are also launching a new off-site show called ‘Preponderance of The Small’ on Friday. It consists of work by 21 artists, among which are some of my favourite artists/people. The artists will be installing all sorts of work “in and around Trinity College”, but this extends as far as George’s St and includes great locations like Oxfam and Road Records (details on press release here). There are maps available at the gallery (just inside the Nassau St entrance to Trinity).
  • If you’re anywhere up around Talbot/Foley St for The LAB or whatever there’s an interesting show involving Francis Wasser in the Oonagh Young Gallery with some performance work. Also, just next door at Liberty Corner, Eilis McDonald is curating a show called ‘Rapture Heap’ that features work by artists that have inspired her. Irish artists Mark Durkan and the amazing Ruth Lyons are showing work along with some international artists and well known web artists. This looks like a very good option people!
  • If you’re carrying a miniature version of yourself around for the evening, there are loads of family friendly stuff going on. The Stone Gallery on Pearse St has a few nice events going on including an origami workshop with Oisin Byrne and some quality live music.
  • HISTORIC QUARTER: There’s a treasure hunt going on along Francis St which should be lots of fun and there’s a pile of galleries along there to drop in to. Monster Truck have Brendan Flaherty’s impressive paintings on show in his show ‘The Power of Music’ and, as I said, we’ll be providing some powerful music later in the night.
  • HEUSTON/MUSEUM QUARTER: Very quickly, I’d recommend Brendand Earley’s show in mother’s Tankstation, Tracy Staunton & Fiona Woods in The Joinery, Lesley-Anne O’Connell & Sanja Todorovic in the NCAD Gallery and Anita Delaney & Aoife Cassidy in Pallas Contemporary Projects.
  • TEMPLE BAR/NORTH OF LIFFEY: Project Arts Centre are inviting people to have a glass of wine and chat to Seamus Nolan about his Corrib Gas exhibition, which I’d highly recommend. I’m not mad about the current Gallery of Photography show, but there’ll be markets and other stuff happening in the usual squares (and Curved St) during the night. The Jaki Irvine show which opens tonight will be on in Temple Bar Gallery & Studios, while Michelle Browne will be conducting an art/performance workshop with an active retirement group in the gallery. It sounds like it could be either dull or brilliant, and knowing Michelle, it’ll be the latter. Exchange Dublin will also have their doors propped open until midnight, so do pop in and see how things are going.

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