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Friday 14th September 2007

Irish Times - 'Temple Bar Cultural Trust come up with a distinctive and inclusive way to open the doors of Dublin's cultural institutions'

Irish Times - Friday September 14th 2007

Culture Night

For many people "culture" often stands for something that exists beyond their familiar experiences; they see it as being only for the elite few. This and other perceptions - that it is for the better educated and involves forbidding and incomprehensible art-forms that are perhaps more to be endured than enjoyed - inhibit attendance and participation, and are difficult to shake off.

While another factor may be cost, we are fortunate that our museums and national collections are free - unlike many other capitals - and, relatively speaking, our theatre can be good value compared to prices in London and New York.

Most of the major arts institutions now have programmes of education and outreach, as well as marketing ploys, that seek to widen access to bring in new audiences which might heretofore have regarded visiting a museum or gallery, attending a play or listening to an orchestra or choir, as something that was beyond their capacity to enjoy.

In establishing Culture Night last year, Temple Bar Cultural Trust came up with a distinctive and inclusive way to open the doors of Dublin's institutions to those who might not ever think of visiting such places. While this idea of an open celebration of our cultural riches was a novel one here, it follows a model that has already worked well in other European cities. Many of the participating venues rely on taxpayers' money, so the taxpayer is well entitled to at least this one night of public access to free culture and entertainment. The opportunity should now extend beyond Dublin to other centres.

In an era of anxiety about audience development, the result of this venture will, hopefully, connect more people to the arts, build a new generation of theatre-goers and art and music lovers, and raise public awareness of what actually goes on in some of these hallowed spaces. The Book of Kells in Trinity College, for example, is one of the most visited treasures we have - but how many Dubliners have ever seen this jewel in their midst? Tonight they have an opportunity to do so.

This evening a diverse range of events and activities will take place, offering an alternative to what might constitute the normal Friday night: tours, exhibitions, concerts, films, studio workshops in making art and dance, indoor performances and street entertainment. If these create opportunities for the discovery that a walk around an art gallery or an encounter with the Yeats exhibition in the National Library can stimulate the imagination, or if they renew a sense of the value of the arts, they will have been well worthwhile.

© 2007 The Irish Times