The Cathedral Quarter Trust, the organisation behind Culture Night Belfast has appointed a Creative Lead for their 2021 project.
Earlier this year Susan Picken, director of Culture Night Belfast and the Cathedral Quarter Trust, announced the event would look very different this year.
Next month the annual event will return with a new format and a new approach designed for a COVID-safe, post-pandemic environment. A key difference this year is the decision to suspend the previous open submission programme and instead focus on creating one central experience working directly with artists.
“The biggest change this year will be that we won’t be running an open programme for submissions as in previous years” said Susan.
“Instead, Writer’s Square will be transformed into a monumental, immersive cultural experience running from Friday September 17 to Sunday September 19. In addition, an intriguing interactive trail will help visitors to reconnect with, and explore the rich artistic environment of the Cathedral Quarter. ”
Artist Gawain Morrison, who has been appointed as the Creative Lead, and his team have been tasked with the job of creating a unique, COVID-safe, installation that will dominate Writers’ Square in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter across the Culture Night weekend.
“The arts and the wider community have had a particularly difficult time over the past 18 months,” said Susan, adding: “While the situation is slowly improving, It is still very important to us that we are able to reflect the changing requirements of audiences whilst ensuring that everything we do is fully COVID secure.
“We were all really intrigued and excited by Gawain and the team’s proposal and I am certain their work will bring Writer’s Square to life over the weekend whilst also linking in to our central themes of nature and environmental sustainability. We will be creating something new for Belfast, a unique space for people to enjoy, relax and appreciate the natural world.”
Gawain brings over two decades of experience in multi-platform media production and events organisation to the project alongside his team, including artist and prop designer Dylan McCaughtry, designer, artist and engineer Neil Beattie, lighting designer Tomás FitzGerald and drum loop producer Damian Mills.
Speaking of the project Gawain said: “The brief itself was very open in terms of where you could go with it, while it was site specific there was a lot to work with in terms of making it visually interesting whilst keeping within the brief of creating a city garden.
“We are planning the installation so that visitors will have a monumental audio-visual experience, it will be overwhelming both day and night.
“The actual scale of the structure itself will be impressive. The fact that at night-time the lighting will come alive will give it a very different feel from the daytime and allow people to experience it in different ways.”
Prior to the pandemic, Culture Night had been one of Belfast’s largest free events, a cultural celebration that attracted almost 90,000 local, national and international visitors to the Cathedral Quarter and Belfast city centre. The impact of COVID has led to a major review of the event however.
Susan said: “Culture Night 2021 will be much smaller in scale and scope and will take the form of an on-site installation with an interactive trail that people can drop into and enjoy over the course of the weekend – this different format will allow us to focus on safety as well as making sure everyone has a great time.”
Whilst it may be smaller in scale Gawain said it won’t be any less spectacular than previous years.
He explained: “From the moment that the Culture Night team told us we’d won this proposal to now it’s been fairly full on. We’ve been able to go from the high level concept to how do we make this happen to working with Neil and Dylan on the practical side of it in a very short space of time.
"This will be a unique and sensory experience for anyone attending and will make for great photo opportunities."
This year’s Culture Night Belfast is supported by Belfast City Council, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Tourism NI, Translink and Belfast Harbour Commissioners.
To keep up to date with all the Culture Night Belfast updates go to culturenightbelfast.com or follow #CNB21 on social media.