Switch On to Culture Night Derry/Strabane

This year's programme promises to offer a glimpse of what makes Derry, together with Belfast, an ideal candidate for European Capital of Culture 2023

The North West has a cornucopia of culture on the cards for this month as Culture Night brings over 40 free events to Derry~Londonderry and Strabane on Friday, September 22.

Celebrated together with cities all across Europe, the annual event offers the opportunity to experience a variety of different genres, from drama to architectural exploration, at venues which keep their doors open long past normal business hours.

Visitors can follow a cultural trail throughout the city, featuring open nights, live performances, music, song and exhibitions. Whether you have a passion for all things artistic, are mad about music, or just want to be surprised – why not join one of our specially themed guided tours and trails, departing from Visit Derry on Waterloo Place.

There will also be the opportunity to show support for the European Capital of Culture 2023 bid by putting forward ideas for a dynamic and transformative cultural programme with wide reaching benefits for both Derry and Belfast.

Launching the packed programme, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh, encouraged everyone to make the most of what's on offer throughout the area.

'I am delighted to launch this year’s Culture Night programme and to see that this year’s event features so many new and interesting insights into our cultural identity and local heritage.

'Derry has lots of hidden treasures when it comes to cultural venues, and this is an opportunity to explore places and spaces we don’t usually frequent. As we work towards preparing our joint bid with Belfast for the title of European Capital of Culture 2023, Culture Night offers just a glimpse of the rich and unique arts and culture scene which makes us the ideal candidate for this international title.'

Highlights include The Barber of Moville, a dark comedy about dementia by Ronan Carr which takes place in Baldies Barbers, and The Unfamiliar Familiar by Sue Morris, a responsive installation which uses the surroundings of Nazareth House, Bishop Street to explore and challenge perceptions of ageing and dementia.

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The Unfamiliar Familiar

Originally from England but based in Derry for the last three years, Morris spent two months drawing floor plans and photographing the former residential care home as the atmospheric location for the work, which combines sculpture with found objects and materials.

'I wanted to create something that was challenging but not distressing for people,' she explained. 'In a cultural sense dementia is somewhat taboo, and the condition isn’t represented much in mainstream art – it tends to sit on the periphery. A lot of the work around Dementia also focuses on the loss of memory, but a huge issue is simply not being able to complete everyday activities - navigating stairs and doorways for example - and I’ve tried to capture that sense of confusion. Everyone will take something different from the piece based on their own experience. I’m not dictating, everyone will bring something different to it, I’m just trying to create a space to reflect.'

Meanwhile Ronan Carr spoke about his play challenging perceptions of identity and how people learn to adapt to life changing circumstances.

'It’s a dark comedy. In a nutshell it’s about two barbers – a husband and wife - who are preparing to head off to see the opera in Italy for one final holiday. You see, Molly, the wife, is not well, she has what the characters describe in the play as the ‘forgetting thing’. To call it dementia in this context would be ill-judged because the play doesn’t really portray the reality of that disease. We just use an illness to talk about identity and how something like Dementia is a shape-shifter. Basically the play asks, if you can’t remember you are, do you really exist? And Molly is determined to make her ultimate exit while she still knows who she is.'

Collectors of comic books and card games are covered with two great events happening in the Waterside. Eighty81, the former Turner Prize building at Ebrington, will host Art of the Comic, an exhibition showcasing contemporary comic art in all its various strands. Meanwhile the Foyle Arena's weekly Trading Card Gaming event upgrades for Culture Night to Yu-Gi-Oh! – plus a special official Pokemon League Challenge. Experts and fellow competitors will be on hand to help beginners and parents are also welcome to come along and play against the kids.

Culture Night also features a whole host of events welcoming people into some of the city’s most cherished and challenging buildings – old and new. A series of events will be taking place in some of the city’s most interesting buildings and spaces, exploring their architecture and history.

Head of Culture with Council, Aeidin McCarter, said the programme reflected the colourful array of talent on offer locally. 'This year’s Culture Night promises to be a real experience for anyone who wants to find out more about the local culture scene. It’s the perfect opportunity to maybe step out of your comfort zone and sample some alternative performances.

'This year we will also be out and about asking people to support our bid for the title of European Capital of Culture 2023, with a special ECOC trail at a number of venues hosting events. Our message is ‘Back Our Bid 2023’ and Culture Night is the perfect platform to discuss and celebrate our cultural story, and what benefits this international cultural accolade can bring to our city.'

Further information about the Culture Night programme for Derry and Strabane can be found at www.derrystrabane.com/culturenight. For more on the European Capital of Culture 2023 bid go to weare2023.eu and get involved using #BackOurBid2023 on social media.