Nine Nights was theatrical celebration of ancient Indian folklore in music, dance, drumming, procession and special effects. It took place in 2015 as part of the Creative Belfast programme, a major investment by Belfast City Council and Arts Council Northern Ireland in seven projects aimed at providing residents the opportunity to take part in high-quality culture inspired by the city’s local heritage.
One thousand community participants, dancers, musicians and storytellers took part in creating Nine Nights, which was produced by Walk the Plank, a Salford-based collective that specialises in outdoor artistic spectacle, and created by ArtsEkta, a Belfast-based arts and cultural organisation that works to develop intercultural relationships at the heart of the community. Nine Nights was inspired by navratri (‘nav’ meaning ‘nine’ and ‘ratri’ meaning ‘nights’), an important hindu festival celebrated in india, devoted to goddess durga.
As Artsekta explains in their report on the project, “The ambition was to deliver the first large scale contemporary, non-religious celebration of Navratri outside of the Indian sub continent, using innovative forms of storytelling and delivered on an epic scale to engage with the widest possible audience.
“Staged across Belfast City Centre, Nine Nights took place at dusk where family audiences were immersed in a visually thrilling experience of music, dance, live theatrical narration, fiery pyrotechnics, light projections and sumptuous special effects as hundreds of community participants, dancers and musicians joined together in the spirit of storytelling and contemporary celebration.
“The story was linked to Belfast’s context as a city that aspires to move on from its conflicted past by promoting the themes of good over evil, elimination of suffering and the creation of new opportunities. Hindu’s believe that the festival is an ideal time to start a new journey, and through that belief this event will promote Belfast’s continuing journey to a shared, peaceful and prosperous society. ArtsEkta’s aim for this event was to evoke emotion in audiences and create a sense of pride and belonging for all communities.
The final performance was complemented by a series of community-based workshops exploring the story and the wider traditions of Diwali, the annual Hindu festival of lights.