Open the doors of Dublin and lure us inside for a peek
In the age of Zoom, many of us spent less time walking the streets of the capital than before. The city that Joyce dubbed the “Hibernian Metropolis” has fallen unusually quiet, more like the hibernating metropolis. But now she is waking up and Culture Night is offering a chance for locals and visitors to explore the city in new and exciting ways.
Culture Night shines a light on what surrounds us all year round – a city of heritage and history – by opening the doors to the city’s cultural institutions and inviting us to take a look. This year there are over 250 free in-person and online events at over 200 locations. On both sides of the Liffey, and beyond the city center as well, the program has something for all ages and all walks of life.
Music has been absent from our lives in ways deeply unknown to the city of late. On Culture Night, the doors of Na Píobairí Uilleann in Henrietta Street open, inviting us to explore the Georgian building that houses the Irish Pipes Society.
The city we see today from the Liffey is modern and apparently constantly expanding, far removed from the Dublin of poet Louis MacNeice
The uileann pipes, synonymous with the playing of Séamus Ennis, Leo Rowsome and Liam Óg O’Flynn, are an instrument steeped in history and, since the 1960s, Na Píobairí Uileann has been committed to promoting and preserving this musical art. Their neighbor, 14, rue Henrietta, has become colloquially known in the city as the “building museum”.
In truth, it’s something much larger than that, a museum that centers a building on the storytelling of social history and uses its details to tell the story of the city, from Georgian grandeur to the decline of apartment buildings. . Few buildings can tell the story of Dublin’s Georgian elite and abandoned working class in one visit, but this house certainly can.
Crossing the Liffey, Culture Night offers the option of doing so on a historic Liffey ferry. Once a familiar sight to generations of Dubliners, Ferry No.11 was taken out of service with the arrival of the East Link Bridge, but has now regained its former glory. Dublin’s historic Liffey ferry service dates back to a Royal Charter in 1665, and while Liffeyside has been physically transformed in recent decades, the ferry offers unique views of familiar landscapes like the Samuel Beckett Bridge, the Poolbeg Stacks And much more.
The city that we see today from the Liffey is modern and apparently constantly expanding, far removed from the Dublin of poet Louis MacNeice and the “gray brick on brick” he fell in love with. But his words, about how “The lights jig in the river, with an accordion movement” could be remembered instead. At Bedford Lane in Temple Bar, artists Kevin Bohan and lljin will paint two pieces live in response to this same poem by MacNeice.
Other literary figures are in the spotlight at the Icon Factory and Icon Walk, a reminder that even today there are pockets of bohemian art culture in Temple Bar. At Meeting House Square, the Gallery of Photography presents the Hope cycle of the Prix Pictet, the world’s first prize for photography around sustainable development.
Showing images previously exhibited in London, Tokyo, Zurich and Tel Aviv, the gallery continues its commitment to bring the best of international photography to Irish eyes. Nearby, at the Brick Alley Cafe on Essex Street, Irish photographer Peter O’Doherty’s Havana footage captures a society in transition, taken in early 2020 before international lockdowns began.
2021 marks the bicentenary of the birth of Lady Jane Wilde, known during her lifetime as Speranza, a pen name borrowed from the Italian word for hope. A fiery nationalist, poet, folklorist and committed activist for women’s rights in society, she was also the mother of Oscar Wilde. His family home was a center of political debate and cultural discussion, welcoming visitors like Millicent Fawcett, activist for the English suffrage and Bram Stoker, author of Dracula. Now known as Maison Oscar Wilde, Culture Night allows us to enter the living room of Speranza.
For over a year now, the front door of Trinity College Dublin has been closed to us. A favorite shortcut, from College Green to Nassau Street, gone
Oscar Wilde had a brief engagement with Freemasons as a student, joining the Apollo University Lodge at the University of Oxford. That Wilde was a Freemason is little known in Ireland today, as is Daniel O’Connell’s membership. At 17 Molesworth Street, the Grand Lodge of Ireland invites the public to visit Freemason’s Hall on Culture Night. Looking at the building from across the street, the square and compasses – a symbol of Freemasonry – can be seen in the building details. Inside, the building is a curious yet fascinating mix of architectural styles. We learn about the chessboard mat, which “represents the good and the evil through which members walk in life.” You won’t come out knowing everything about Freemasonry, but you will certainly learn a lot.
Nearby, Leinster House joins the online program with a virtual tour. 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), a museum which has grown from the remarkable collection of private collector Gordon Lambert, and which houses some of the best in Irish and international modern art .
Nestled in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the museum not only benefits from the stunning 17th century architecture it inherited, but also from the surrounding parkland. In Place, by Croí Glan Integrated Dance, is the opportunity to attend a unique outdoor performance, while inside is Ghosts from the Recent Past, inviting us to see works of art from the collection of IMMA in the context of our changing world over three decades, both locally and internationally.
Print is at the heart of our history – whether in the form of literature or political proclamation. The Beggars Bush Barracks National Print Museum is the kind of museum that makes us rethink things. Having recently collaborated with artist Maser on Project Parallels, exploring the Proclamation of 1916, the museum is now open to those who wish to learn more about the skills and trade of the printing press. Would Irish history be quite the same without the Wharfedale Stop Cylinder press which proclaimed our Republic? Maser’s own gallery, Atelier Now, opens on Charlemont Street at night.
Speaking of printers, it is to Dublin’s shame that when Joyce’s Ulysses rolled off the printing presses, it was adorned with the name of Shakespeare and Company, the Parisian publisher. Next year marks the centenary of Joyce’s ode to Dublin. At the Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI), they seek to demystify the history of June 16, 1904 and explore the rich Irish literary heritage beyond Odysseus. One of Dublin’s newest museums, its beautiful rear garden allows visitors to stand in front of the same tree where a young Joyce posed with his fellow University College Dublin graduates in 1902.
And what about that other neighboring university, the one that remains in the heart of the city? For over a year now, the front door of Trinity College Dublin has been closed to us. A favorite shortcut, from College Green to Nassau Street, gone, until it reopens this month. Culture Night invites us once again to the campus of Dublin’s oldest university. Its geological museum – a chance to see the skeleton of a giant Irish deer – is a hidden treasure in the city. It is also possible to take a guided tour of the campus as a Gaeilge.
Perhaps tours will visit the statue of former provost George Salmon, whose hostility to female students was somewhat legendary. In her day, the Council insisted that “if a woman had once walked through the door … it would be practically impossible to see what buildings or rooms she could enter, or how long she could stay there.” Since the college’s doors were last opened to the general public, Trinity has appointed his first wife Provost. Cities are constantly changing.
Culture Night takes place on September 17th. Visit culturenightdublin.fr for details. Donal Fallon presents the Three Castles Burning podcast and is a former Dublin City Council Historian in Residence
Five choices for Culture Night
- Bewley’s Cultural Tour on Grafton Street: A chance to see some of Dublin’s finest stained glass, including works by Harry Clarke and Jim Fitzpatrick.
- Fucking the fine print: One of Dublin’s leading printers opens for live demonstrations of screen printing and Risograph printing.
- Guard Museum, Dublin Castle: Finally in a new house within the walls of the castle, this museum tells the story of the Irish police.
- Small streets on the big one: A walking tour including lesser-known sites of importance to Behan, Joyce and more.
- The history of weaving: In Liberties at St James Parish Church with local historian Cathy Scuffil.