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Collaboration in Coolock

Working with Dorothy Smith and Peter Kearns on our 'It takes a village..' project by George Finglas

Co Author:
George Finglas

Being retired and in reasonable good health with time on my hands, I decided to take interest in my community and natural surroundings. More importantly try to, with the assistance of others, improve the quality of life by demonstrating good examples and encouraging participation in community projects by all comers.

As a result of completing the Communiversity 2016 course run by the (NSP) Northside Partnership I was nominated with others to take part in The National Neighbourhood project created by my former employer, Dublin City Council.

To be honest, I had not got a clue about where or what my participation was going to lead to.  Very soon I realised my course-mates had the same view.

Anyway, as the course proceeded, we progressed and found our mojo.

At this stage I must introduce the group (with license) and I will in alphabetical order. It is important for me to stress that having completed this project I have gained 8 new friends who I admire and respect.  

Dorothy (The Artist) Smith

Dolly (The Colombian Activist) Duffy

Gay (The Strategist) Traynor

George (The Connector) Finglas

Geraldine (The Wise One) Gilsenan

Kate (The Arranger) Aston

Peter (The Great) Kearns

Shabina (The Educator) Valentine

Terry (The Budget) O’Brien

Blank canvas: We sat around the table in the Civic Centre on Bunratty Road asking what is it all about. Kate said it was a culture-based initiative called “The National Neighbourhood Project” designed to bring culture to local people in the community. (We all giggled). She said we would be soon assigned an Artist and she was unsure of the field he / she would represent.

I had a little premonition that Bono would appear and say lets get started lads. Alas not to be. We were assigned the wonderful Dorothy, (no yellow brick road) just a true artist with a deep seated love for the betterment of all places.

The theme was “It Takes a Village” so we agreed we should try to secure a meeting place somewhere in Coolock Village. The St Brendan’s Community Centre was identified as possibly the most suitable followed by Parnell’s GAA Club and the 2 pubs Kyle’s and The Cock & Bull. The community centre was available and became our meeting place for all sessions other than the few when we went to IMMA.

The challenge for Dorothy, was to get the six of us creating. This took a little time but to be honest it did grow legs and I soon got into it. I found myself moving meetings to ensure I would not miss a session. I think the same applies to my fellow participants.

We got down to business and took a field trip around the immediate vicinity.

coolock sign

Coolock Village Malahide Road, clicking cameras and phone cameras as we walked. I don’t think we realised at the time that the art would be produced by us. Hundreds of photos emailed to Dorothy. It wasn’t long before the creative juices began to flow. First assignment was to take a square shaped section of a photograph and transfer the main structural outlines on to a square about 3 times the size. What happened next was amazing (to me) we put the copied squares together and we realised we had created. I say this because the 6 of us had stated we were basically useless at art, 6 people useless at art yet we created something together. A simple exercise yet it succeeded in bonding us as a group and it gave us the confidence to be a little bolder as we went forward.


The first collaborative drawing by the group
The first collaborative drawing by the group

We took a trip over to IMMA, The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Royal Hospital, Military Road, Kilmainham. What a hidden treasure, Dublin born and reared and I passed it thousands of times and never knew we had such beauty within walking distance of Heuston Train Station and numerous buses. So much history, so much wonderful architecture. I think the idea was that by being in IMMA we would be inspired to create an art project as a Studio had been acquired to do on site work if we wanted to. The idea was we would spend one week in the Village and the next in IMMA.

Gay, Geraldine, Shabina, Dorothy, George, Kate and Dolly at the studio in IMMA
Gay, Geraldine, Shabina, Dorothy, George, Kate and Dolly at the studio in IMMA
IMMA (thanks to St Benedict's Photography Group for the image)
IMMA (thanks to St Benedict’s Photography Group for the image)

Next we were introduced to Peter Kearns, a magnificent human being, a Poet and an inspiration to all. Peter has a disability, I don’t know how to describe it but the fact I have a disabled older brother I can somewhat identify with him. My first encounter with Peter was when he announced to the group. “If you cannot understand what I am saying, just pretend you do” from that moment on it was very easy working with Peter, a true artist in every sense of the word. Writing a sonnet with Peter was certainly a highlight, we named it ‘Dream On’ and it will appear in our booklet ‘Put Yourself in the Picture’.

Terry, Dorothy, Geraldine, Dolly and Shabina at the 'dream on' bus stop
Terry, Dorothy, Geraldine, Dolly and Shabina at the ‘dream on’ bus stop

I think Dorothy’s understanding of what is required to kick start our belief in ourselves worked very well. The fact we were all delighted with the first exercise gave us the confidence to kick on. I found myself thinking, what is Art? I am Art, we are Art. Although what we will produce may not be top quality art, it is our art all the same and worthy of hanging even in a bus shelter. My personal view of art has changed as a result of taking part in this project.

We proceeded to work on a very worthwhile booklet called Put Yourself in the Picture and amusingly the same theme kept coming up (The Santry River) some positive but mainly negative comments as a result of neglect. We were assigned the task to walk our own area and take photographs with ourselves in them. Not suitable for selfie’s so I asked my wife to take a few for me.

Although I witnessed a lot of neglect I have to highlight that my trip to Clongriffin made me sad. I say this because neglecting an area is one thing, now neglecting people is another and sadness and anger were the two emotions that the trip to Clongriffin brought out in me.

Dorothy Smith photographing an empty shop front in Clongriffin
Dorothy Smith photographing an empty shop front in Clongriffin

Maybe I am wrong but seeing bicycles stored on most glass fronted balconies kind of says to me that the planners got it wrong. They allowed Developers to get every last inch to maximise profits. Why was there no storage area for people in these developments? The mind boggles, but I see it as GREED. Perhaps such simple pleasures should be compulsory in future developments. It also resembled a sort of ghost town. Most shop fronts were vacant with many advertisements for the local Credit Union yet there is no Credit Union in Clongriffin.

The people of Clongriffin are my neighbours and they deserve to be treated with more respect. The area has a large amount of young children (Tomorrow’s Politicians) but no services to assist their development.

To conclude I will just mention a few of the other headings we discussed in this journey and I sincerely hope they give encouragement to others to take up the gauntlet and rally for a safer and better environment.

CoolFest: Was discussed that maybe a festival in Coolock Village could be held in the Summer. It could have the effect of uniting communities and maybe a launch pad for future rock stars. After all Cedarwood Road is not too far from Bunratty Road.

Area travel map: Perhaps a tear off A3 street map of the area could be developed.

School Tours: Perhaps children could be brought to visit the many beautiful buildings and landmarks in the area.

by George Finglas
20 February 2017


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  1. Grest story grounded by people who love their area. Possible this story may never have been told thanks to the Northside Partnership.

    Well done enjoyed reading the story.

    Cllr Andrew Keegan

  2. Well done George and Co. Sounded like a very interesting journey with good connections made. Hopefully you can inspire others to get more involved.

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