By Conor Forrest
CULTURE Night 2020 is almost upon us, returning for its fifteenth edition this Friday 18 September. Many local artists, venues and community groups have responded to the Kildare Arts Service call, despite the challenge the Covid-19 pandemic represents.
The annual public event celebrates culture, creativity and the arts and, thanks to the continued support of the Arts Council and local authorities across the island, all activities are made available to the public free of charge.
Of course, with things being the way they are and normal life upended, many of this year’s events in Kildare will take place online, though there are some that will be held offline with the requisite safety measures in place.
For example, from 4.30-6.30pm a miniature fairy house workshop will take place at Abbeybridge, Naas – Maura of AbbeyBridge Studios will teach kids how to make their very own fairy house, which they’ll get to take home. There’s a maximum capacity of eight children and booking is via email ([email protected]).
If you’re musically inclined, starting at 7.30pm the Ballymore Eustace Concert Band will take to the streets of Ballymore Eustace for an open-air concert, allowing both musicians and audience members to safely enjoy a live performance. Expect jazz, classical and pop music in this year’s eclectic programme and no booking is required.
Or you can meet the County Kildare Orchestra in a Zoom chat online from 6-7.30pm. Conductor Lorcan Daly will chat with orchestra members about how they began playing music and what it’s like to play in the orchestra, and audience participation is expected – you can send your questions in advance to [email protected] or ask in the chat on the night. The orchestra has been working hard during lockdown and will have a surprise to share too! For further information and to reserve tickets, visit countykildareorchestra.ie, their Facebook page or Eventbrite. The Zoom details are available on culturenight.ie.
Elsewhere, an online talk at 7pm (until 8.30pm) with Dr Maebh O’Regan will discuss the Irish legacy of the Bronte family in 15 objects (book by emailing [email protected]).
The past meets the present as a man sets out in a special film performance of Eavan Boland’s evocative famine poem Quarantine. Presented by Run of the Mill Theatre (a community-based theatre arts collective in north Kildare) in collaboration with Arcade Film and produced with the kind permission of Carcanet Press, Quarantine is performed by Mark Smith, featuring Jackie O’Hagan and directed by Aisling Byrne. Mark, who is originally from Meath but lives in Celbridge, has been appointed the Leinster Trailblazer for Culture Night 2020.
Or you might be interested in an online exhibition by the Bog of Allen Nature Centre of the items we used in times gone by around our homes and how we still use these early designs today, even though they look very different. No booking is required and the event runs from 4-12pm.
One particular event that caught my eye is the online presentation of the Kildare Covid Notebook project. Earlier this year, more than 150 Kildare residents signed up to the project, each agreeing to fill an A5 notebook however they wished. Cocooners and elderly people were particularly encouraged to take part and rose to the challenge with gusto. The hope is that the notebooks, which will be scanned for archiving by Kildare Co Council, will inform future generations about thoughts and experiences around Covid-19.
Lucina Russell, Arts Officer with Kildare Co Council, explained that they had made a commitment to have some celebration of the notebook project on Culture Night. She added that they got some funding from Creative Ireland late this summer and selected seven older people from around Kildare to talk about their notebooks.
The filming has since finished – it’s directed by local filmmaker David Lynch and Lucina interviewed the participants. It will be uploaded on Culture Night and will feature on all of the Kildare Arts Service social media channels.
“We were very mindful of going into people’s homes in Covid, some of them had been cocooning, so we were very respectful of that,” she noted.
Lucina said that they’ve received about 80 notebooks and remarked that “some day we will invite everybody that participated to an exhibition”.
Another Kildare Arts Service event is an online portrait exhibition of Kildare’s Covid heroes. In June, the public was asked to nominate the county’s Covid Heroes – those living in Kildare and supporting others through the Covid-19 pandemic, people like nurses, volunteers, shop assistants, frontline workers and teachers. Visual artists with connections to the county then painted portraits of those heroes and the event will see the newly commissioned works displayed for the first time.
“I got to have a sneak preview of the portraits and they’re just fabulous,” said Lucina.
You might also have seen photos of the new mural in Athy, a boxing ballerina created by artist Derek O’Sullivan (Solus Art). It was commissioned by Athy Sing and Sign Club with the support of Kildare Co Council and Creative Ireland for their upcoming Visual & Virtual ISL Festival (25, 26, 27 September).
Members of the public are invited to name the ballerina (you might like to include a reason for your suggestion) and to strike a pose with or inspired by the mural – you don’t have to physically travel to Athy or visit the artwork to enter the competition.
On Culture Night, an independent panel will select a name from the submissions to name the ballerina and from the ‘strike a pose’ entries. The two winning submissions will receive a signed print of artwork by Solus.
You can send your entries to [email protected] with contact details, including where you live. You may like to provide some information about your pose which the Arts Service may share on social media. The closing date is 12 noon on Thursday 17 September and the winners will be announced online at 8pm the following day. More information is available on the Kildare Arts Service Facebook page.
Athy Sing and Sign are celebrating their aforementioned mural for Culture Night by creating a short film of their members singing ‘Something Inside So Strong’ by Labi Siffre. They will have dancers, ballerinas and gymnasts – the mural epitomises strength and beauty and they want to deliver that message through this production.
And there’s plenty more going on around the county this Friday to whet one’s appetite for all things culture. Singer-songwriter Luka Bloom will be performing tracks from his new album and will also sit down with local Culture Night ambassador Keith Walsh to discuss the process of making, recording and sharing music in 2020. This fusion of songs and stories will be broadcast live from the Riverbank Arts Centre from 9-11pm and viewers are invited to share their thoughts, comments and questions during the event.
Friday will see the online launch of Art Feeds, a collaborative exhibition by Kildare Art Collective featuring the work of 31 artists, poets, musicians and writers. Developed as a platform to process and document our lives throughout these strange times, Art Feeds explores themes like isolation, home and the natural world. You can view a series of interviews with participating artists throughout the day on the Riverbank’s social media channels and view the full exhibition online at 6pm.
You can also join artist Paul Woods for a fun community art project at the Monasterevin town hall garden. Book a painting session slot – alone or with your family – during which you will play your part in creating a community painting inspired by nature. With each session, groups will add more elements to the painting, resulting in a collaborative community artwork. The stages of the process will be documented and a slideshow will be broadcast at the end of the night. All slots have to be pre-booked and participants will be contacted in advance.
In Athy, ‘Cooking Up A Delicious Storm’ will return for the sixth time with Women’s Integrated Network (WIN), Athy, at the Arch. It will showcase varied specialities (food, drink and beverages) from across the world and will feature storytelling thanks to Tales By Moonlight and a Team Adventure cooking challenge. Anyone wanting to take part in the challenge must pre-register and bring their ingredients. Prizes will be awarded across five categories and the event will also be live streamed on Facebook.
From 8-9pm on the night, Naas Toastmasters will hold a special open meeting featuring an opening address by the club president, three or four speeches lasting for seven minutes, followed by a Table Topics segment. A specially chosen Table Topics Master will throw out random topics and all guests and members will be encouraged to speak for up to two minutes on the topic. Additional members will join via an online link and you can book your place by emailing [email protected]
Or you could enjoy musical performances at Café Grange in Sallins – four local traditional music groups (Sult, Fonn Nua, Spraoi and Sult Óg) will play a variety of tunes, airs and medleys, while local singers will provide a repertoire of Irish language, traditional and contemporary songs. Additional musicians will join via Zoom and the event (8-9.30pm) will also be streamed on Facebook Live (facebook.com/sultnasollan).
For the full list of Kildare events and more details about them, visit culturenight.ie and connect through culture!