What are Museums at Night events like? Culture24 staff share their impressions

Late yesterday afternoon, as Museums at Night weekend finally kicked off, Culture24 staff shared a bottle of cava and cheerfully toasted the biggest ever Museums at Night. Then we went our separate ways to check out the events – and here are some of our highlights!

people gathering outside a building covered in climbing plants

Visitors gather at Charleston

Museums at Night project manager Nick Stockman was bowled over by the beautiful atmosphere of Charleston in the evening: knowledgeable tour guides, soft music, friendly visitors and a house and garden designed and created to satisfy an artist’s eye made for a magical experience at this historic house. Read Nick’s story, and see more of his photos, here.

A woman playing a violin in a room painted with murals

Music brought Charleston to life as the sun set

Art writer Mark Sheerin stepped on board the Birmingham Art Bus where he met a gang of eager culture vultures, rocketing through the Ikon Gallery, the RBSA, mac (the Midlands Art Centre) and the Barber Institute. He even ended up at an old-school rave in Digbeth’s VIVID – proof of the incredible diversity of Museums at Night events! Read Mark’s story, and see his photos, here.

Staff writer Ben Miller zipped between three very different events in London: discovering the naval history of HQS Wellington on the Thames, debating horror films among the ancient artefacts with an audience of UCL students at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, and finally discovering the music, dance, and glamorous hair and makeup of the 1940s in the bustling Churchill War Rooms! Read Ben’s story, and see his photos, here.

As for me? I went to the late openings of two video art installations curated by Lighthouse in Brighton which I’d meant to check out earlier, but had never found the time to get to. Kutlug Ataman‘s screens full of tumbling water are incredibly compelling amid the massive, darkened space of the disused Old Municipal Market.

However, it was Lynette Wallworth’s interactive video art at the University Gallery that moved me most: you step up to a lifesize dark screen, and press your hand to a flickering blue light. From the darkness, a woman slowly steps forward into the light, and presses her hand to yours in acknowledgement, before returning to the darkness. It felt incredibly powerful to experience these encounters on my own – more so when I read some of the moving stories of the tribulations these women had survived.

Finally, I was part of a wonderful communal experience: waving in front of Everything Looks Beautiful in Slow Motion, created by Nic Sandilands and South East Dance, and projected out from the Lighthouse building. A bright light shines across the street for about 30 seconds, and captures the passers-by on video. Then this video is replayed in grainy black-and-white slow motion. I chatted with families with children bouncing in and out of the spotlight, confused tourists dashing in and out of the camera beams and chuckling uncontrollably, and a confused drunken gentleman who clearly found the experience very disconcerting: all human life was there.

And one extra review: my parents went to the Victorian Soiree at the Courtauld Institute in London, a gallery they’d never been to before. Not only did they find the building fascinating, but Mum was astonished to find herself face to face with the Van Gogh’s famous self -portrait with a bandaged ear, and realise that this was the original she’d only seen reproduced before. Their highlights included the live music, the Victorian parlour games, and a talk about some of the artworks by expert Ayla Lapine. “In theory,” Mum commented over the phone, “we could go to this sort of thing every week – but we don’t ever seem to get around to it!” And that’s why Museums at Night is so popular, I think – the marketing campaign leading up to this one weekend gently nudges so many people, prompting them to try visiting new arts and heritage places.

Have you been to any Museums at Night events? We’d love to hear what you thought! Leave a comment or drop me an email at rosie@culture24.org.uk – and don’t forget there are many more events taking place tonight and tomorrow night! Find the complete event listings here: www.museumsatnight.org.uk.

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