Culture Night Lisburn

Lisburn gets in on the act with a range of free events taking place in Castle Gardens, R-Space Gallery and elsewhere

On Friday, September 20, Culture Night once again unites cities around the world in a celebratory showcase of art, entertainment, spectacle and creativity – and all to be enjoyed for free. This year, for the first time, Lisburn is joining the global party.

A joint project between Lisburn City Management and Lisburn City Council, with some funding from the Lisburn Historic Quarter Arts Group, it is adhering to the Culture Night format, with a range of free activities spread across the city. The events, the participants and the mix of venues are unique to Lisburn, aimed at making Culture Night Lisburn a brand all its own.

Between 3.45pm and 8pm, there will be musical performances and heritage workshops in the Lisburn City Library, outdoor games, facepainting, the Art on the Rails exhibition and more in Castle Gardens; a choir in Lisburn Cathedral; and film, blacksmithing and art previews in the R-Space Gallery, to name but a few events.

In the evening, Lisburn’s diners will experience live music alongside their meals, as many of the city’s restaurants play host to 20-minute sets from a range of musicians and performers, including Ryan Hanna on Spanish guitar, Gabriel Makamanzi on thumb piano (Mbira) and Scott Flanagan on jazz piano, as well as a host of other classical and acoustic artists.

The Island Arts Centre is holding a Culture Night concert, featuring Silhouette as its headline act, and from 9pm to late, Lisburn’s bars and pubs are throwing open their doors for free gigs. The Cardan Bar will host Lisburn six-piece Whanau, Nick Freeman’s country rock comes to The Three Crowns, and Hagues welcomes the tripped-out sounds of ShudD and roaring rock from Smoking Tongue – a very small selection of a packed music programme going on into the wee hours.

Lynne Waterworth owns The Bead Shop on Lisburn’s Bridge Street, which is holding workshops during Culture Night. Her main hope is that it opens up the city to people who wouldn’t normally consider coming in to Lisburn for culture or entertainment.

'A lot of people think of Lisburn and think, "There’s nothing on after 5pm", but since I moved here a few months ago to open up my shop, I’ve discovered there’s a lot more to do and see than you realise.

'We called in to The Favourite bar to introduce ourselves and found it was beautifully refurbished. Within minutes of walking in, I was welcomed as a new neighbour with a drink set up on the bar. The great thing about Culture Night is that it opens up places people wouldn’t usually try, and encourages them to come in and see what they’re really like.'

I grew up in Lisburn, and I have been back living here since 2012. Over the years, I have seen it go from a thriving market town to a ‘city’ in oft-used inverted commas, to what is now becoming something of a commercial and retail wasteland, largely due to the economic climate. The common theme throughout its ups and downs, however, is that a cultural and social life has been virtually non-existent.

I’m not the only one who now feels a long-overdue sea change is finally happening. Amanda Kirkpatrick, who has worked with Lisburn City Centre Management in arranging Culture Night’s evening musical entertainment, says that 'people and businesses are coming together and rediscovering their sense of community. They’re working together to promote Lisburn as a whole, and realising this benefits everyone.'

The Cardan Bar and Grill saw upwards of 100 people through the doors for its first Made In Lisburn art, craft and food fayre on Saturday, September 14. Craft stalls, plus food and cocktails demonstrations from The Cardan’s chefs and bar staff, showcased a handpicked selection of local produce, and already they are looking into making it a regular seasonal event.

They joined forces with the Fashion Souk, which held a vintage fair in Castle House on the same day, and both reaped the benefits of joint promotion. The R-Space Gallery owners invited people in on the same Saturday to see parts of the building not usually open to the public, to celebrate European Heritage Open Day. The city was buzzing, and many felt it was a tantalising glimpse at what Culture Night could spark in Lisburn.

The Lisburn City Masterplan was published nearly three years ago, an ambitious 100+ page document produced as a joint initiative between Lisburn City Council, Lisburn City Centre Management and the Department for Social Development.

Its vision statement describes Lisburn as 'a regional city with a historic heart', and envisions a future where 'the cultural life of the City Centre will spill out of its theatre, art galleries and performance spaces, with a range of street festivals and events being held regularly throughout the year'.

The public realm improvement works are currently underway, and it is hoped that Lisburn’s first Culture Night will be a valuable first step in realising the huge cultural and social potential of this little city.