“That’s only for tourists”. If ever a phrase could sum up my childhood it would be that. Requests to visit the Beehive Huts and Gallarus Oratory on the Dingle peninsula, circumnavigate the Ring of Kerry and visit Muckross House were all met with this firm and final phrase. Did my elders really believe that Kerry’s finest wares were not meant to be seen by the natives? Or was it simply a polite way of saying no? Logistically fitting seven children into a Ford Cortina was not an ergonomic impossibility – they were fine spacious cars. But it did contravene road traffic legislation. And so in the interests of fairness and the law, all got left behind and none of us got to see our culture spots until we flew the nest with our own wheels.
But the more I discuss this with Irish people the more I discover that there is a lack of culture in experiencing our culture. If we don’t partake and celebrate in our own culture then we are merely showing tourists a false construct of ourselves. And not only is our culture for us, it is us.
Thankfully, this mindset is changing and Culture Night has to be given thanks for being instrumental in this change. Culture Night has been the national campaign in encouraging citizens to experience the numerous cultural outlets in the regions on a specific night with free admission to all events. It has been hugely successful in breaking down access barriers to art forms and venues and opening up opportunities for us to discover more about how we see ourselves.
Culture is not just for tourists. Culture is for everyone.