Friday, September 13, 2013

European Heritage Open Days 2013 - this weekend (14 and 15 September)

It’s European Heritage Open Days weekend in Northern Ireland. It’s your chance to get inside over four hundred buildings without paying and to find out about their use and history.

This year the buildings will be joined by artists, poets, storytellers and other performers who’ll be giving the weekend a cultural slant. Settle into a pew and see the film To Kill A Mocking Bird in Belfast’s Rosemary Street Church at 8pm on Saturday. And check out the excellent Wireless Mystery Theatre who will be broadcasting old-time radio shows and commercials from Sawyers in the Fountain Centre every twenty minutes on Saturday afternoon.

Away from Belfast, the R-Space Gallery in Lisburn (32 Castle Street) is hosting Shrieking Sisters, a rehearsed play by Carol Moore and Maggie Croni about Suffragette Lilian Metge who attempted to blow up Lisburn Cathedral in 1914. Play on Sunday at 3pm preceded with by a guided walk at 2.15pm. Booking essential.

UU graduate Jonny McEwan – who’s responsible for the fantastic panels on the side of the Skainos building on the Lower Newtownards Road – has created a site-specific video installation that can be experienced in Armagh Public Library. Saturday 11am-6pm; Sunday 2pm-6pm.

But back to the buildings …

Every year people rave to me about the Belfast Central Library tour. The library is open to wander around most of the day, but the behind the scenes tour is at 11.30am (until 12.15pm). The Linenhall Library's worth a tour too. PLACE have organised a Mapping Belfast walking tour that will consider how Belfast has (and could) be mapped, and how this helps us understand the city. Leaves the front of PLACE (40 Fountain Street, near the back of Boots) at 11am. At noon another tour leaves the same spot to investigate the Art Deco buildings that can be spied across the city. Fully Booked.

The MAC’s architects are giving tours around the Cathedral Quarter arts venue at 10am and 11am on Saturday morning. Given my lack of appreciation for the outside of the building, and my ability to get lost inside its concrete floors, maybe I should book a place!

A bumper number of buildings are open in Derry this year. The Tower Museum is worth a visit, and a tour of The Playhouse will turn up some unexpected history. And if Derry's Freemasons’ Hall is anything like the Belfast one (also open in Cornmarket/Arthur Square), it’ll be worth a look inside. The Apprentice Boys' Memorial Hall is open too.

Downpatrick Court House – scene of some of my early blog posts about jury service – is running tours on Saturday. Both Armagh Observatory and Armagh Planetarium are open on Saturday.

A good selection of Lisburn churches – many of them listed buildings – will throw their doors open on Saturday ... but not Sunday! One year I’ll remember to call in Castle House (on Lisburn’s Castle Street), the former residence of Sir Richard Wallace.

You can get into Stormont Castle and see the polo-mint table the Executive sit around (a truly odd piece of furniture) on Saturday and Sunday. Parliament Buildings – which runs tours all year round – is open too. The Clifton Street Orange Hall – complete with minutes of an Orange lodge meeting in Irish – is open on Saturday.

Lots of buildings and events all across Northern Ireland. Check out the NI Environment Agency's EHOD website for times, maps and last minute changes. PDFs for Belfast and the six counties are available if you haven't been able to find a paper brochure.

Open House Dublin runs from 4-6 October, with 100 buildings open across the city. Much anticipated will be the chance to tour around Google's European headquarters in Dublin's Docklands. Open House Galway is on 10-13 October. The European Heritage Days website – along with its twinkly map – will allow you to explore wider flung opportunities.

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