Sunday, September 25, 2011

Brief Musings from Culture Night

Due to having variously been out of the country, sick, or away on or just back from a work trip in previous years, this was actually my first experience of Culture Night. Even then, as it had been an eventful day, I had to keep it brief. My companions and I visited the United Arts Club, Royal Society of Antiquaries in Ireland, the Arts Council and the National Library. We deliberately wanted to stay away from institutions that we could otherwise access at any time, such the large museums and galleries, and instead preferred to poke our noses into less likely places. I was struck by how cordially we, and indeed, as far as I could see, all the other visitors, were received at each spot. The hosts seemed sincerely delighted to be having visitors and were keen to volunteer information and answer questions. Thus we were made welcome and we very much enjoyed the experience.

The RSAI emerged as our favourite. We saw their beautiful garden, restored to appear as it would have looked in the 18th-century. Amidst the mostly edible plants (GIY is not a new invention, folks!) there was a poignant little gravestone erected for Prince, a loyal award-winning dog. The building itself was gorgeous, with spectacular plasterwork on ceilings and historical furniture present in most rooms. The shelves of the ground room library held such treasures as a three-volume collected correspondence of Emily, Duchess of Leinster.

While we were walking on the streets, I remarked to my companions that there was a particularly festive and enthusiastic atmosphere about the city. There were long queues to the Freemasons' Hall and to the Houses of the Oireachtas. Groups and pairs of people wandered from one balloon-decorated, fully lit place to the next. A lot of children had been taken along, and they seemed as interested as the adults. Most curiously for this city, people appeared sober! Perhaps those who had indulged to celebrate a well-known brewery the previous night had decided to take it easy. It felt like major celebrations - Hallowe'en, if you like, or New Year, and so on - should feel like. One of my companions expressed definite appreciation of the night and wished for something similar in the UK as well. Next year, perhaps, I will get a chance to spend some more time at the event, so that the Culture Night will become a Culture Day.

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