Culture Night (and Day) will be double the fun with 100,000 set to hit the streets
New format to make event even more family friendly
Organisers of tonight's 'Culture Night' in Belfast have promised that it will be "bigger and better than ever".
For the first time, the annual autumn event - now in its 11th year - is expanding to Saturday with 'Culture Day' to cope with the increasing numbers flocking to enjoy the city's rich diversity.
Around 100,000 are expected to hit the streets across tonight and tomorrow to sample an eclectic evening mix of art, music, food and family-friendly entertainment.
Explaining the move to include Saturday in the festivities, Culture Night manager Claire Hall said: "We'd listened to what people were saying about it getting a bit overcrowded at night, especially with drinking.
"Families were saying it was quite difficult to be out on the streets after about 6 or 7 o'clock.
"We hope that by adding the second day and finishing events on Friday at 9pm, this will make it a bit more family orientated and not so drink heavy."
While Claire is keen to stress that the city's hospitality hotspots will be open as usual for those seeking to enjoy the party later into the night, the early evening and Saturday daytime itinerary is tailored to be inclusive to both young and old.
"Our big focus is on the culture and art and celebrating the diversity of our city," she said.
"We have 80 to 100 people giving up their time as volunteers. They are the smiling faces of culture night.
"Our theme this year is pride - pride in our city, our artists and pride in the diversity of our citizens. Our programme tries to reflect a bit more inclusivity."
There are over 200 organisations involved in showcasing Belfast's cultural and artistic diversity.
From cabaret in Donegall Street and a St Anne's Cathedral food market, to crazy golf and interactive performances at the City Hall, there is something for everyone to enjoy in what promises to be a packed programme of events.
One highlight this year will be Belfast Harbour's trailblazing walking tour, which will take visitors along an iconic route following the River Lagan, passing by pop-up circus performances, street acrobatics and an aquatic workshop with Ulster Wildlife.
Joe O'Neill, from Belfast Harbour, said: "Belfast Harbour has a long tradition of supporting the arts and we're delighted to continue our support for Culture Night and Day 2019, which is always one of the city's annual highlights.
"It's great to see an inclusive programme which reflects Belfast's growing diversity and celebrates local artists who make this city a thriving hub of creativity.
"The riverfront will provide a great backdrop to the street performers and the walking tour is the perfect opportunity to let people explore and enjoy our waterfront at City Quays in an entertaining and inventive way."
In light of an increasing awareness of sustainability, organisers have partnered with NI Water - with water refill stations scattered across the city and free reusable water bottles handed out at Writers Square.
In planning the event, Claire Hall explained the team had put a lot of effort into persuading the public to take small steps to make the event as green-friendly as possible.
This includes asking for people to leave the car at home and get on the bus.
She added: "With having Translink on board as a partner and having some services running up to 1am in the morning, there will be plenty of ways for people to get in and out. This year as an event we are trying to promote the green message and are trying to do our bit to fight against climate change.
"We are encouraging use of reusable cups, using tote bags rather than plastic bags and even the paper we used in our programmes can be traced from sustainable trees."
Claire revealed planning starts in May and described it as a "huge amount of work" to organise among their team of 10.
She explained that it is "very rewarding" to have the city of Belfast as their "venue" to plan a "brilliant and vibrant" cultural party.
More information along with the full programme of events can be found at www.culturenightbelfast.com