With just one week to go before a very different Culture Night Belfast this year organisers are emphasising to visitors that “it’s definitely not the same as years gone by”.
Replacing the previous city centre based programme of street based activity and pop-up events, this year the creative team have revealed ambitious plans to create a vast structural, lighting and sound installation , The Ogham Grove, that will fill the Cathedral Quarter’s Writers’ Square.
Although the plans for this year are monumental in size, Culture Night Belfast and CQ Trust director Susan Picken says visitors should not expect the same on-street celebration as years gone by.
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 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.”
The 2021 edition of Culture Night will have a completely new format and a new approach designed for a COVID-safe, post-pandemic environment. A major difference this year is the decision to move away from the previous approach to programming.
“One of the biggest changes this year will be that we haven’t run an open programme for submissions as in previous years” said Susan.
We won’t be asking for proposals for performances or events, instead we are working directly with our Creative Lead team to transform Writer’s Square with our exciting installation, The Ogham Grove, which will be running from Friday September 17 to Sunday September 19. This extended running time will allow more time and space to visit and experience over the weekend.”
Despite CNB looking and feeling very different this year, Susan said Belfast artist and creative lead Gawain Morrison and his team will be creating an equally exciting new experience for Belfast with The Ogham Grove and it’s accompanying digital trail.
Susan added that Gawain’s plans are “spectacular” and will “provide a very unique experience to each person who visits throughout the weekend”.
“Gawain and his team of artists will transform Writer’s Square with this groundbreaking artwork that will invite visitors to explore the relationship with our native woodlands and the environment” she explained.
“This is a significant moment for CNB, not only is this our first large-scale artists’ commission but it also signals an exciting new format for the event as we move forward.”
The concept for The Ogham Grove takes inspiration from the ancient Celtic Ogham Tree Alphabet.
“Two monumental sculptures will be built in Writers’ Square, with themes drawn from our ancestral heritage and culture here on the island of Ireland” said Gawain.
“The Tree Alphabet will act as the primer for learning about the Ogham characters, their meanings, and their tree associations while the Celtic Ogham Year Wheel signifies the links with our natural environment, living in harmony with it, and the awareness of our place in the universe, the lunar and solar cycles that drive the life on this planet of ours, and all of how life lives–in balance and together.
“The Ogham Grove offers a window into an alternative interpretation of the world around us, highlighting the importance that nature played in the societies of our ancestors, enabling us to reconnect with this heritage in a playful, thought provoking and visually stunning way, at a time when the natural environment and spending time outdoors has never been so important.”
Gawain 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 said the installation they are planing will leave visitors with “a monumental audio-visual experience that will be overwhelming both day and night.”
He added: “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.
"This will be a unique and sensory experience for anyone attending and will make for great photo opportunities" added Gawain.
This year’s Culture Night Belfast is supported by Belfast City Council, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Tourism NI, Belfast Harbour Commissioners and Translink.
To keep up to date with all the CNB Presents The Ogham Grove updates go to culturenightbelfast.com or follow #CNB21 on social media