Tens of thousands stay up to enjoy overnight culture

Around 42,000 people converged upon various sites throughout downtown Riga and its surrounding neighborhoods Saturday night to enjoy the diversity of events, exhibits and installations at the annual ‘White Night’ contemporary urban culture forum.

As the event’s website explains, the White Night is “one night in the year when citizens are encouraged to experience a state of creative wakefulness, which will alter archaic notions of the environment and its cultural life.”

This year’s White Night featured 54 contemporary culture projects, with a special focus on Francophile motifs such as Georges Méliès’ 1902 silent film “Trip to the Moon.”

“Night turns many things around. The Sun, which illuminates by day, is replaced by the Moon, which gladly displays itself on the night sky’s captivating backdrop, and, just like in a Georges Méliès movie, transforms into a humane being capable of unexpected grimaces. Darkness allows the imagination to unfold, while the city provides countless reference points,” art critic Vilnis Vējš describes this year’s White Night programme.

White Night spokeswoman Linda Vītola-Barānova told information agency LETA that attendance at the many scattered happenings was “intense.” Many events were filled to capacity well before the start of their programs, testifying to high interest levels among Riga residents.

Open-air sites saw the largest flow of attendees, such as at the Spīķēri warehouse district, the AB Embankment and the Vidzeme Market.

White Nights began as a fall season tradition in Paris in 2002, then spread to Brussels, Rome and Madrid, as well as other European capitals like Riga.

“The White Night’s wondrous journey is available to all those prepared to sharpen their sight and hearing under the influence of a wakeful night, until the finest of senses manifest themselves letting one participate in the surrounding events. This nightly brotherhood of artists is always prepared to regroup into new units and networks — never repeating itself but instead welcoming new opportunities and participants,” says the White Night website in closing.

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