Under the crimson glow of St. Patrick’s tower, the choir of Mercer’s Institute for Successful Aging (MISA) wasn’t your typical picture of Culture Night. Pacing back and forth, conductor Nora Walsh encouraged the group to stay toasty for the performance ahead. In the crowd, family and spectators were rubbing their hands together, waiting patiently as the singers practised lyrics to ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’, preparing for their opening number.
Given the long list of ways to spend Friday evening, it was difficult to know if we had made the right choice. The Digital Hub’s night of film and music had advertised itself as ‘a celebration of the creativity, community and talent of Dublin 8’. In the middle of the quiet courtyard, it might have easily been mistaken for a family barbeque or private gathering. Seeing grandchildren run around in shorts while we sat shivering in our heavy coats, uneasiness and awkward giggling passed our time until the staff of Digital Hub introduced the night ahead. For all our hesitance, we couldn’t have been proven more wrong.
After the choir of MISA opened the evening, Artist-in-Residence Mia Mullarkey explained the process of filming ‘Dublin 8: Portrait’ in the heart of the Liberties. A beautiful black-and-white portrait of Dublin 8, Mullarkey captured a light-hearted community (many of whom now comprised the audience, watching themselves on screen) spanning a broad range of locations and ages but nevertheless Irish. Closing the film with the question what the Liberties is, the answer “The Liberties is the heart of Dublin” struck a lovely chord through the crowd.
After a brief interlude, ‘A Class of Ten Nations’ was the next feature, looking at the work of the One Foundation in providing free English courses to refugees and immigrants in the area. Consisting of accounts from the students, the enthusiasm to learn poured from the screen. Refusing to make the night heavy, the crowd chuckled as the different nationalities joked, playing ping-pong and debating Ted Talks in their increasingly fluent English. The process of integration was shown in all its difficulty, but the joy and hope to be found for the students was inspiring.
Finishing the evening was the animation ‘Love is a Sting’ by Vincents Indignation and Ian Hunt Duffy. A totally different film from the previous two, it told the story of Anabel; a 20 year old super-smart mosquito coming to the end of her days. When she falls for children’s’ writer Harold Finch, she must figure out how to translate her squeaks and flutterings into something more. The difficulty of genuine communication told through the allegory showed the great talent of the artist and area. Short and sweet, the film had toured all over the world. Set and partly filmed in the Liberties, however, the feature couldn’t have been more at home. With the Roald Dahl-esque tale bringing tears and laughs in equal measure, it delivered on the night’s promise of celebrating while exploring the community in the heart of Dublin.