Your ultimate guide to sci-tech fun on Culture Night in Dublin

21 Sep 2017

From left: Laura Sarah Dowdall and Dagmara Jerzak from Dance Ireland at the launch of Culture Night 2017. Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

As the clock ticks down to another Culture Night across Ireland, we take a look at a terrific 30 Dublin events that piqued our interest.

Culture Night takes place across the whole island of Ireland on Friday 22 September. The annual celebration of culture, art and heritage began as a Dublin-centred event in 2006. Since then, it has taken hold in locations across the Republic and Northern Ireland and, this year, more than 3,000 free events are planned – the biggest Culture Night programme to date.

With so much on offer for Culture Night 2017, we have focused on the nation’s capital – which alone is hosting upwards of 600 events in the city centre and greater Dublin area. And we’ve done the hard work of parsing through them all to find 30 worth visiting for a taste of Ireland’s sci-tech past and present, a chance to build and make things, and an opportunity to mingle with the city’s creative and collaborative innovators.

And that’s not to say there aren’t stimulating sci-tech and innovation-themed events elsewhere. For starters, the gang at CIT Blackrock Observatory in Cork will be celebrating Cassini’s retirement in style; the Birr Castle, Gardens and Science Centre in Offaly will once again open late for visitors; and the sights and sounds of classic video games will light up the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland on the NUI Galway campus.

To help navigate it all, you can search events by location on the Culture Night website or download the free app (iTunes, Google Play) to have easy access to all the info on the go.

Wherever you are, be sure to get out and take in some Culture Night fun.

Introduction to Geocaching

One of the many free Dublin tours happening on Culture Night is an Introduction to Geocaching, a game where players hide and seek containers called ‘geocaches’ at specific locations marked by coordinates. Organised by members of Geocaching Ireland, this tour begins at 6pm in the Papal Cross Car Park.

Film screening at The Digital Hub

The Digital Hub – home to Silicon Republic, among others – invites visitors to its Digital Depot courtyard to catch an outdoor screening of films about the local neighbourhood preserved by the IFI Irish Film Archive. There will be two 30-minute screenings on the night: one at 8pm and one at 9.30pm. Additional entertainment will be provided by five-piece band Megacone, while Container Coffee will open late for hot drinks and snacks to the keep the audience sated in the shadow of St Patrick’s Tower.

Irish research at Boston College

Boston College on St Stephen’s Green once again invites the public to engage with the work of Irish researchers with a full schedule of events. Depending on their arrival time, visitors can explore traditional tales of Irish fairies, see how bodily sounds make their way to the cinema screen, catch an interactive kung fu demonstration, watch a visual arts performance, enjoy a playful take on Irish politics, or listen back to the history of algorithmic music from Mozart to Mario. All of the above and more have been co-ordinated by the Irish Research Council and will be admissible on a first come, first served basis.

Culture Night at Boston College

Culture Night at Boston College. Image: Irish Research Council

After The Future at Robert Emmet Community Development Project

This exhibition from Glenn Loughran, Eimear Reidy and Dee Harte explores the industrial heritage of Dublin 8 and the future of work in society through multimedia works inspired by the last sewing factory in an area defined by sewing factories. The exhibited works will incorporate classical composition, textile production, film-making and 3D printing.

Tour of Tog

Ever wondered what goes on in a space filled with makers, hackers, tinkerers and builders? Then take a tour of the Tog hackerspace in Blackpitts. While you’re there, you might pick up some lockpicking skills or brewing techniques, or you can just interact with some unique tech art projects. (Keep an eye out for the ducks.)

Ableton Push Playground

Ableton Live is a music production suite famously used by Deadmau5, Daft Punk, M83, Hot Chip and Nine Inch Nails. On Culture Night, you can learn how to create your own electronic music with Ableton-certified trainer Martin Clancy and his team of DJS, music programmers and producers as your guide. No prior music knowledge or experience is required for this event in the Sound Training College, Temple Bar, but it is advised that you arrive early and book a 20-minute slot to avoid disappointment.

Connector Studio

For Culture Night, Temple Bar’s Connector space becomes a pop-up Instagram photo gallery. Check out amazing entries from the Huawei Snapys 2015 and 2016, Ireland’s Instagram community awards celebrating amateur and professional snaps of travel, pets, food and more.

Kids get creative at Gallery of Photography

As well as guided tours of the exhibition and production facilities at the Gallery of Photography in Meeting House Square, children are invited to make their own photogram in the traditional photographic darkroom. (Email booking is required via

Photo Detectives at National Photographic Archive

Get acquainted with the ‘Flickroonies’, an online Flickr community of ‘photo detectives’ who have helped identify hundreds of people and places, establish dates and reveal the stories behind more than 2,000 photos. The Photo Detectives exhibition at the National Photographic Archive celebrates both the work and play of this community who investigate the photographs in the National Library’s collections.

A4 Sounds on Screen at Blessington Court

As well as hosting a diverse programme of performances, animation, workshops, shadow puppetry, storytelling, music and studio tours at their base on Upper Dorset Street, A4 Sounds will host a satellite event in Blessington Court. Working together with Blend Residents’ Association, A4 Sounds on Screen promises highlights from the Hackfest Alternative Animation Festival and a special edition of the Firehouse Film Contest, which screens short films made in the previous month.

Healthcare history at the Mater

Visitors to the Mater Misericodiae University Hospital can enter through the original front entrance to learn about the past, present and future of medicine, surgery, nursing and pharmacy. Interactive exhibits in the Pillar Room will offer a glimpse at an old surgical theatre and a sense of how operations were performed 100 years ago. Some of the archival records, historic photos and fascinating medical devices at the Mater will be open to the public for the first time this Friday.

Blacksmithing at Mountjoy Square

The wrought iron railings surrounding Mountjoy Square are the perfect spot for demonstrations of traditional blacksmithing and the stone-repair skills that have been used to restore this historic site, dating from 1802. Following the demo led by master blacksmith Paul Devlin, there will be a 90-minute walking tour of the square, including visits to some of the private houses.

Imaginary Encounters at the French Embassy

A giant interactive video installation is coming to Merrion Square from French artists Scenocosme: Grégory Lasserre & Anaïs met den Ancxt. The French Embassy will host the outdoor projection of ‘Imaginary Encounters/Rencontres Imaginaires’ and, as visitors approach the installation, they will find themselves mirrored on-screen. Virtual hands and faces attracted to their reflection will try to catch, touch and surprise the viewer. In black and white, the screening is meant to evoke a ghostly feeling harking back to the early cinema effects pioneered by Georges Méliès.

Imaginary Encounters/Rencontres Imaginaires

Interacting with a projection of ‘Imaginary Encounters/Rencontres Imaginaires’. Image: Embassy of France in Ireland

Above the Fold at The Tara Building

Above the Fold presents a night of talks to highlight the creative and collaborative nature of Dublin’s hottest new co-working space, The Tara Building. Talks will feature artists, designers, writers and event managers whose practice encapsulates culture in Dublin. Guests can pull their own print with help from Tara residents Apollo Print and live music and light refreshments will also be available.

Sound Check on tour

The Science Gallery will keep its lights on up to 10pm for after-hours access to Sound Check, an exhibition where visitors become musicians, inventing instruments and exploring the outer edge of tomorrow’s sound. In addition, the Chartered Accountants Ireland office on Pearse Street will bring Sound Check offsite for one night only, promising even more entertainment in exploring music.

Earthquake monitoring at DIAS

Despite its lack of large earthquakes, Ireland holds a special place in the history of earthquake studies thanks to the pioneering work of Robert Mallet in the mid-19th century. On Friday, you can learn more about the past and present of earthquake monitoring in Ireland at DIAS’s School of Cosmic Physics in Merrion Square where, just recently, they detected shockwaves from the 8.2 magnitude Mexico earthquake.

MakeShop show-off

MakeShop will open its doors once again to show off the scientific side of culture at its shop on South Leinster Street. Staff there will be presenting their favourite gadgets and gizmos from the past year for visitors to try out.

Vikings and knights at the museum

Drop in to the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology on Kildare Street for a specially designed Culture Night museum adventure trail with Claíomh. Along the way, you’ll encounter Viking warriors and merchants, Medieval knights and soldiers, as well as museum-quality replicas helping you learn more about weapons, armour, trade and craft in Viking and Medieval Ireland.

World Rhino Day at the Dead Zoo

Friday also marks World Rhino Day, so the Natural History Museum is celebrating both of these and its 160th anniversary all in one special night. Brendan Walsh and Ken Mackey from Dublin Zoo will be there to meet visitors, and museum conservator Nieves Fernandez will explain how she created a replica horn for the museum’s black rhino.

Travel back in time with RCPI

Step back in time with the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, at its magnificent Victorian home on Kildare Street, and learn what life was like a century ago through the Letters of 1916-1923 project, and see how medicine was practised through hands-on demonstrations of period instruments.

Look to the future with RCSI

While the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has a rich history intertwined with that of Dublin (take its important role in the 1916 Rising, for example) its Culture Night exhibits will also look to the future. Visitors are invited to explore the National Surgical & Clinical Skills Centre at the new RCSI facility on York Street – the first of its kind in Ireland, and the largest and most advanced in Europe. Through a self-guided tour, you can check out the state-of-the-art surgical and training suite with clinical skills labs and mock operating theatre, while the medical and surgical innovations of the RCSI staff through the years will be highlighted in a digital exhibition.

Architecture and the Moving Image at the RIAI

With Architecture and the Moving Image, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) will be communicating out to the Culture Night wanderers inside and out No 8 Merrion Square. Curated by architect and filmmaker Stephen Mulhall, up to 30 films, videos, animations, documentaries, newsreels and more will be screened inside the RIAI’s headquarters. All of the footage – including snippets on the construction of Dublin – will also be projected on the ground floor windows of the Georgian building, visible to passers-by.

Art and history at the RIA

Talks on the Royal Irish Academy and its collections – which includes Women on Walls, portraits of living and dead Irish women scientists – will run throughout the night on Dawson Street. There’s also an exhibition of original 18th-century watercolours by Dutch artist Gabriel Beranger, the history of Irish towns as seen through the Irish Historical Towns Atlas project, conversations with the editor of the Foclóir Stairiúil na Gaeilge and the chance to learn to write your name in Ogham.

From left: Laura Sarah Dowdall and Dagmara Jerzak from Dance Ireland at the launch of Culture Night 2017. Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

From left: Laura Sarah Dowdall and Dagmara Jerzak from Dance Ireland at the launch of Culture Night 2017. Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Dublin Language Garden at Trinity

The Trinity College Dublin campus is practically a one-stop shop for Culture Night visitors, with an exhibition from artist Mark Orange; an evening of poetry and song dedicated to revolution, rebellion and resistance; and, of course, the world-famous Book of Kells and other treasures of the Old Library. One event that stands out, though, is the Dublin Language Garden. Now in its fourth year, this event uncovers the link between language and culture through talks and activities such as board games, crossword puzzles and lip reading challenges.

Rare books and views at Cregan Library

Cregan Library on the St Patrick’s campus of Dublin City University (DCU) will offer English or Irish language tours, a chance to take in stunning panoramic views of the city from the top floor, and an exhibition of rare books from its special collections. There will also be author readings and talks from staff of the DCU Institute of Education. Across the campus, you’ll catch performing groups of all kinds, and art-making and viewing for all ages.

Stargazing at the Margaret Aylward Centre

In Glasnevin, Culture Night at the Margaret Aylward Centre for Faith & Dialogue will start with a talk on the lifecycle of a star. There will then be the opportunity to view the night sky from the centre rooftop using binoculars and telescopes. Celestial sights expected on the night include the moon as a slender crescent and a visible Saturn (given a clear southwestern horizon). The autumn star groups will be prominent and, looking east, you’ll find the heralds of winter coming into view.

Green Sleeves at the National Print Museum

Situated in Beggars Bush Barracks, design geeks will love the exhibition ‘Green Sleeves: The Irish Printed Record Cover 1955-2017’ at the National Print Museum. Visitors will have the opportunity to pull a print of a letterpress keepsake, design their own record sleeve and see demonstrations of the museum’s collection by retired printers and typesetters, some of whom printed for the Irish music industry. Arrive at 6.30pm and you can join the special Curators in Conversation event run in conjunction with Typography Ireland.

Socrates Café at the School of Philosophy & Economic Science

In Ballsbridge, the School of Philosophy & Economic Science will host a Socrates Café – a space to join with others in an open, lively and uplifting enquiry into timeless questions. Socrates Cafés are for questioning and exploring themes together. Coffee will be provided for visitors who join the discussion and exchange thoughtful ideas an experiences.

Art meets science at UCD

During the day on Friday, UCD Parity Studios’ artists in residence are welcoming visitors to discover how some of Ireland’s most esteemed artists contribute additional perspectives, re-frame debates and create paths for new thinking to emerge through their artwork. Whether you’re interested in art, science, architecture, engineering, social sciences, law or business, you’ll feel at home in these studios.

Late-night opening at Dunsink Observatory

Running late into the night, the historical Dunsink Observatory in Castleknock – the former home of Ireland’s great mathematician and scientist, Willliam Rowan Hamilton –will keep its doors open for visitors to come and see the magnificent Victorian engineering of the South telescope and dome, built by Grubb of Dublin. Weather permitting, there will be various smaller telescopes on display for stargazing.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.