Culture Night Belfast cancelled but organisers promise better format upon return in 2023

Popular arts and culture event Culture Night Belfast is taking a break for a year and when it returns it will be in a new format.

Organisers said the city centre spectacle had become “too big and unwieldy” and was in need of a “complete rethink”.

Since it launched in 2009 Culture Night Belfast grew to become one of the biggest free cultural events in the city with attendances of around 100,000 in 2019.

Susan Picken, director of Cathedral Quarter Trust and Culture Night Belfast, said: “We realise many who took part previously and those members of the community who look forward to it will be disappointed by the decision to take a year out.

Last year Culture Night was marked with the impressive Ogham Grove installation and an accompanying digital trail, supported by Arts Council NI

“We want to make sure we are able to give our full attention to successfully planning for the future. We are developing some exciting ideas on how to take the event forward into the future and taking some time to plan is necessary for this.”

Susan went on: “The pandemic and the restrictions of the past two years gave us an opportunity to examine Culture Night Belfast in detail and take the time to ask what exactly we wanted the event to grow into.

“One of the questions we had to ask was whether Culture Night Belfast was achieving the outcomes we had originally hoped it would.

“We felt the event had become too big and unwieldy and the original intention of providing a platform for our artistic and cultural communities to connect with a much wider audience had been lost.

Susan Picken, Director of Cathedral Quarter Trust and Culture Night Belfast

“We listened to what our stakeholders, partners and audiences had to say and we believe taking a year out to properly develop plans that put art right back at the heart of what we do is the best way forward.”

A strategic review, which was carried out in partnership with Belfast City Council as part of their ambitions to develop the cultural events in the city, highlighted that arts and culture had become lost in the overall “noise” of the event and that many visitors now felt it wasn’t for them.

Susan said that while Culture Night Belfast has grown exponentially the resources to deliver the programme have not.

She said: “Throughout 2020 and 2021 we carried out an in-depth review of Culture Night Belfast and spoke to many of the partners, arts organisations and artists who have contributed to the event over the years.

“Whilst everyone we spoke to was supportive, everyone was clear Culture Night Belfast needed to change.

“We are really excited about the future – we know people will miss Culture Night Belfast but we plan to be back in 2023 with something even better.”

She said the plans would be shared “in due course.”