On the 10th January, the ALIGHT! project bus made its maiden journey.
In the morning, Alan, our charioteer for the day, picked us up at St. Andrew’s Community Centre on Pearse Street. We were joined by the fabulous women of the Greenore Community Centre Seniors group – Betty Watson, Marie Smith, Sheila Rush, Josie O’Reilly, Bernie Ward and Frances Weaver.
Project artists Muirne Bloomer and Hugh Brown had devised the tour to follow the journey to Sandycove taken by Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s epic novel Ulysses. The bus followed the Coast Road and was punctuated by quotes from Joyce and Yeats; conversations on Brent geese, local stories and time-capsules; as well as plenty of craic, sing-songs and Frank Sinatra (courtesy of Hugh’s portable sound system).
The first stop for our tangerine-orange carriage was the Forty-Foot bathing area in Sandycove. Project artist and avid swimmer Vanessa Daws impressed us with her gusto when she jumped off the Forty-Foot (not once, but twice!) and into the cold sea waters below. From here we walked up to the Martello Tower and to the James Joyce Museum. Upstairs in the museum was a fun recreation of the room imagined by Joyce in Ulysses as the home of Stephen Dedalus and his cousin Buck Mulligan; as well as ephemera on Joyce’s life and work. A wonderful winding staircase brought us further up and gave us a rare opportunity to experience the expansive view from atop one of Ireland’s fifty Martello Towers. Our seaside adventure culminated with sandwiches, tea and biscuits; enjoyed sitting on the bus overlooking the sea.
In the afternoon we met with a dynamic group of Sandymount area residents and the equally dynamic ‘GALs’ from Ringsend. This time our destination was The National Gallery of Ireland, where our hosts treated the groups to a tour of the Jack B Yeats Archive with topic expert Dr Katy Milligan. This was followed by a discussion and activity based on memory and place, facilitated by education curator Sinead Rice. Katy Milligan gave a fascinating introduction to the archive, which included a series of precious notebooks filled with Yeat’s observational drawings of local life in Dublin.
Jack B Yeats was also a keen collector of ephemera such as magazines, theatre programmes and postcards; as well as books on a variety of subjects. Katy described Yeats as an urban man and discussed the relevance of this collection in providing a portrait of the life of the city at that time. His energetic sketches (eg. boys selling newspapers in the rain, catalogues of tattoos for sailors) and his collected ephemera (eg. theatre programmes with their advertisements for products) gave us glimpses into the humans of Dublin at that time, and the similarities and differences to everyday life in Dublin today. Sinead Rice further expanded on this theme when she spoke about the relevance of social history as equal to political history in drawing a complete picture of a moment in time (and in place). She asked the group to then consider the map of Dublin and to think of memories that were linked to specific places. The map gradually filled, as people pinned on snippets of stories and memories from the Dublin of their own lives.
With thanks to the GALS Margaret Dunne, Mary O’Connor, Rosemary Dowling, Mary Ward, Bernadette Weafer, Bonnie Boylan, Jean Cummins, Dolores Cahill, Betty Campbell, Ida Rooney, Margaret Gray, Ann Kemple, Margaret Williams, Susan Byrne; and the Sandymount area group Esme Lewis, Lorna Kelly, Kurt Kullmann, Margaret Pickup, David Siegens, Rodney Devitt and Michael McOlive.