Culture Night Belfast

Watch a film from Belfast's latest, and greatest, cultural attraction, featuring vox pops below

Sean KellySean Kelly, director of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival:

Much of my Culture Night was spent in the Deer’s Head on North Street, where CQAF were hosting Wine, Women & Song featuring local female singer/songwriters Jackie Rainey, Emer O’Neill, Mel Wiggins and Camel Hartley. The breadth of talent on display was amazing and The Deer’s Head was a revelation, with its candlelit tables, great acoustics and atmosphere.

An impromptu gig organised by DADA followed and raised the tempo in the packed bar, with primal rock 'n' roll from Mark Braidner and Bill Johnston and TV/DVD Combo, who raised the roof with some turntables and a set of drums. Outside a party atmosphere was taking over Garfield Street with barbershop quartets, graffiti art, choral singing and free ice cream.

Taking time out for a stroll around the Cathedral Quarter was almost overwhelming, with people thronging into Writer’s Square, dancing to Breag’s Irish reggae, then on to behold crowds on every street with everyone so full of a shared civic pride.

The combination of well co-ordinated, free, family friendly activities and the unexpected Indian summer made for a euphoric night in Belfast, which will live long in the memory of all who participated and surely begs for a repeat.

Zhenia Mahdi-NauZhenia Mahdi-Nau, filmmaker:

Tucked away among the buzz and bustle of Culture Night in Belfast, a 10-minute short film entitled Living in the Half Light was premiered to a packed room on the top floor of Waring Street's Premier Inn.

The film features four unlikely young people living in Belfast, whose origins brought them to the city from China, Egypt, India and Zambia. Living in the Half Light, a film I produced and directed, depicts the complex identity issues facing these four individuals as children and young people, and highlights the confusions and concerns added to their expected growing pains as they try to fit in and be accepted as ‘normal’.

I came to the United Kingdom as a child and experienced the traumas and isolations of being ‘different’, the complexities of having a dual identity while trying to fit into two very different cultures. The film brings together my varied creative interests, with a strong musical element woven into the narratives and stylized animated links.

The positive response from the audience during Culture Night included comments like 'all schools should show this to their kids and start a dialogue'. I'm very happy with the film's debut. Perhaps next year I'll debut another. Culture Night had something for everyone.

Lee HenryLee Henry, CultureNorthernIreland:

I had heard about Chilli Fest before, but never experienced it myself, partly because on previous years you had to pay at the door. On Friday, however, Chilli Fest was free until 7.30pm - even the organisers of the Open House Festival were jumping aboard the Culture Night bandwagon.

Outside the two marquees erected in Custom House Square, punters sipped cold beer and dipped little nacho shards into complimentary bowls of chilli salsa. We bought four of the 'hottest chillis in the world' (according to the slightly tipsy stall holder) and looked forward to having people round for dinner - 'So you think you can handle this?!'

God only knows how to describe the band we saw in one of the marquees, as the sun began to set. They sounded Norwegian, guttural and harsh, but played like Texans - a strange, uncomfortable mix.

We decided to watch the sorry contestants in the chilli eating contest in the neighbouring marquee. I saw one young man wipe sweat from his brow. Half an hour later, outside with our second beer, I saw him again, heading from the toilets to the doors and home for the night - at 6pm. That's what the hottest chillis in the world will do to you.

We ended our very first Culture Night like so many others - hoping that next year's events will be as good as this years.

Joseph NawazJoseph Nawaz, Culture Night PR:

Bliss was it that night to be alive, but to be in your mid-30s was heaven! What an experience. You couldn't turn a corner without a new sight, sound or performance assaulting your senses.

Culture Night Belfast proved, if nothing else, that there's absolutely no reason why Belfast can't be like this more often, if not all the time. It was an evening of constant peaks.

The streets were alive in a way you would normally associate with Dublin, and in many respects it was rather poignant also. To be in the thick of it and seeing people of all ages thronging the thoroughfares made one realise how far we've come in a short space of time, but also how much bloody creativity and generosity of spirit pervades throughout the arts and cultural community.

There can often be a gap between 'cultural' output and people's perception of culture and this evening certainly reduced that gap. It demystified, illuminated and thrilled, and demonstrated that it's just as much about the stories behind the stones in the buildings and the public spaces between them as it is about art and performance.

I'm very proud to have been involved, even in a small way. The hard bit's over now, as they say, here's to Culture Nights to come - each one outshining its predecessor. 2010 suddenly looks like being a good year.


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