So, the fizzing sparkle that is Culture Night is over for another year and the majestic immensity of that event is just being realised. On Friday night I tweeted that
Some 50,000 people voted with their feet, their hearts and their heads and came down to what people are calling the best Culture Night so far! It grows every year. I have the great privilege of being able to count myself as one of the four people who formed the committee and brought the concept to life in Belfast, back in 2009.
Now, it's so wedded to us as a city, so much the weave and weft of what we regard as the life of this place but never taken for granted, because it is a thing of wonder. So, well done to all, committee, staffers, volunteers, artists and participants...and of course, the good folk who walk the streets and cheer and sing and create and support.
But it is that part of the fabric of things that Culture Night represents for the arts. Perhaps we don't have the fanfare of huge crowds, taking over the streets en masse but the arts are going on day and daily in every part of N Ireland. Communities of talents and wannabe geniuses, of art lovers and art makers, new and old, stars and newbies, working, attending, anticipating, enjoying. Totally captivated by the experience of creating and the joy of being entertained and educated in equal measure. The arts that permeate all walks of life. The creativity whose only boundary is imagination and energy, opportunity and ideas.
Belfast on Culture Night felt like any European city - a place at ease with itself, where the arts could be appreciated and crowds, huge crowds, could roam, happily intermingling, without a thought of why this was novel - it felt right, normal, comfortable - and all those terms make it awesome for this place.
As cuts loom and threaten to diminish our creative horizons, it's brilliant to recognise that more and more people value the arts and the necessity that they represent to just feeling normal, to just living like any other place.
Everyone that I spoke to gladly signed the postcard and ticked the box YES - to the question "Do you support public funding for the arts?" . Without hesitation. Young and old. People tweeted, #lovetheartsni, people smiled and recognised the unique joy that the arts and participating in them brings.
But people also recognised that the threat to funding and the diminishing support of the fragile ecology of the arts was real. And perhaps they are starting to recognise that we deserve to have access to thoughtful, inspiring, enriching opportunities. In fact, we deserve more. The future of this place needs more creativity at its very core.
So, Roll on the 18th September, 2015 - Culture Night 7. Hopefully all the organisations and individuals that supported the previous six will still be around to inspire.
Support your local artist. #lovetHEARTSni