CULTURE NIGHT BELFAST 2019

Nothing says Summer is over and Winter is imminent quite like Aston Villa 0-0 West Ham United on a Monday night. Fast forward four days, and we have the annual event which gives us something to look forward to as we try to convince ourselves that the Summer isn’t quite over yet.

Talking of Summer, we certainly got the weather for it. Nice and warm, decent daylight and most importantly, no rain. Although that was the weather all week leading into this, you had the fear it was going to unravel when we needed it most. I think Frank Mitchell must have had a word.

Culture Night in Belfast was a milestone this year, marking ten years since it started. This was the eleventh such event obviously, and I’ve been to nine of them, not a bad ratio.

I missed the first year and got tickets to an event in 2010 that was part of it. After the event in question, I wandered about and enjoyed myself, making a note to come back each year, which I’ve done.

Back then, i’d come home from work, have a bit to eat, and head straight out back into Belfast City Centre, usually arriving around 7pm.

Usually by then, things would be in full swing, so I decided from about 2015 onwards to take a half day and arrive a bit early, usually between 4pm and 5pm.

This year was no different, out of work at lunchtime, home, watch a bit of the Rugger, relax a bit, get showered and get ready to get cultured, arriving in Belfast City Centre just after 5pm.

Helpfully, there were programmes being handed out outside McDonalds if you wanted one, so you could see what was happening where.

I declined one at first, getting a dose of PTSD from Edinburgh, thinking that I was being handed a flyer, so I politely declined at first.

My first visit was to North Street, to have a look at the new mural on Garfield Street. The building work on that street meant it looked drab and was in need of something like that. The artwork is ok but it’s basically an advert for Tribeca and i’m not really that fussed on advertising murals, unless they’re done well and aren’t an in your face advert like the Derry Girls mural in Derry or the John Lydon mural in Bangor.

I then headed to Rosemary Street to see that the chess board was there again.

A major part of Culture Night in the past has been street art painted as part of Hit The North.

However, Hit The North was brought forward to May this year, meaning there would be no live street art painting as part of Culture Night.

The organisers of Hit The North announced the day before Culture Night that their event will only be taking place in May from now on. On the plus side, it’s only eight months away.

The National tried to plug that gap by hosting a Street Art even in their Beer Garden. It wasn’t really much of an event, two guys painting on a canvas for about 20-30 minutes and that was it.

A regular feature of Culture Night is Street Countdown, the TV show Countdown, but performed on the street. The one I popped along to see was won by someone selecting “Haribos” from the letters assembled.

That was in St Anne’s Square, where there is usually wrestling matches, but not this year.

I’m not really into WWE (although I am aware it is now called WWE and not WWF) but I enjoyed watching wrestling bouts at Culture Night.

There’s also usually a parade of something through North Street, but that was also missing this year.

Also changed this year was the Roller Derby, which was moved to an indoor venue at University Of Ulster.

It felt like it wasn’t as busy as it was in previous years, not as many people there.

The loss of a few mainstays meant that I found myself having to flick through the programme to see what else there was.

I called into University Of Ulster and it wasn’t as busy as it usually is.

I then returned to St Anne’s Square to catch up with Street Countdown, which had now gone (turns out it finished around 7.30pm) and the stage taken up with Flamenco Dancers, which I did enjoy watching.

There were a lot of venues that had showcases in previous years which weren’t involved this year.

It was a strange contradiction of a lot of things being on but not a long of things to do.

It did feel heavily commercialised this year. There was one group of performers whose outfit was plastered with the logo of an energy company. Meanwhile, a car showroom hired a projector to advertise on the exterior wall of a hotel.

I really hope we don’t end up being Edinburgh lite with posters plastered all over the venues and being unable to move due to Flyerers.

It was bearable in terms of fagbreaths. That’s not really something to celebrate or be proud of, there were still too many of them about.

It was disheartening to see the programme for the event encouraging people how to get rid of their cigarette butts instead of perhaps, telling them not to be a fucking tramp in the first place and just keep them in their pockets, considering it’s marketed as a family event.

To be honest, it felt a bit underwhelming, which was a bit sad, as it’s an event I’ve always looked to.

I left around 9pm, the earliest i’d ever left a Culture Night.

However, that was not the end of the weekend festivities.

For the first time, the Saturday would be designated as Culture Day. There was a market at St Anne’s Cathedral which interested me, so I popped along to that on the Saturday morning.

As we now hurtle towards Winter, i’m looking for travel inspiration to give me something to look forward to.

I had hoped to book a weekend in London over 12th July next year, so it was disappointing to check the prices on the day Easyjet released their flights that it was £150 just to get on the plane. That’s before I check in luggage and book a hotel.

Looks like I might be looking somewhere closer to home. Galway is the European Capital Of Culture in 2020, so I might head there that weekend.

Or I might go to Waterford again, to check out Waterford Walls.

Talking of Street Art, with Linfield having a free Saturday in a fortnight time, I might use that Saturday to do a day trip to check out Drogheda’s Street Art. I’m still trying to find out if Bridge Jam is on that weekend. It was on that weekend in 2018, so fingers crossed.

And finally, here’s somewhere you might not associate with Street Art …… Rochdale.

Rochdale Uprising is a Street Art festival organised by Nomad Clan, who are regular visitors to Belfast.

I’m heading to Manchester to see United play in early November, so i’m planning to take some time to visit Rochdale and it’s Street Art.

So that was Culture Night, it wasn’t awful, but it did feel a wee bit flat and a wee bit different.

The biggest difference is I won’t be out on my bike on the Sunday after to cover Hit The North.

But you know i’ll be back out to do it all again in September 2020.

Photo Album

Culture Night 2018

Culture Night 2017

Culture Night 2015

Culture Night 2014

Culture Night 2013

Culture Night 2012

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