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Dublin’s Culture Connects: The National Neighbourhood

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It’s great news that today we are launching The National Neighbourhood, a project which brings together partners across the city.

Dublin’s Bid to become European Capital Of Culture 2020 was a set of in-depth conversations between many cultural stakeholders, not least the citizens of Dublin, as to what Culture and Cultural expression meant to them.

Some said they found the word ‘culture’ off-putting as, to them, it implied the word ‘cultured’ and, perhaps that certain people were cultured and others not.

Culture builds identity and self esteem.

But mostly, the conversations were enthusiastic and it became obvious that culture was a lot of different activities from Arts to Sport to Play and all kinds of appreciation that brings people together to learn and connect. Despite any language or social barriers, many of our new Irish are in Sports Clubs. And Dance and Music unites people despite language. Culture builds identity and self esteem.

However even though Culture was seen as a connector, many people said they did not feel connected to their Neighbourhood or City. Apartment dwellers spoke of their isolation within the neighbourhood. Children talked of not being able to play even three streets away. Suburbs seemed dis-connected from the centre city, not to speak of to each other, and this was underpinning fear for personal safety.

Our National and Municipal Cultural Institutions are the jewels in our cultural crown

It is against this backdrop that The National Neighbourhood project was born. Our National and Municipal Cultural Institutions are the jewels in our cultural crown, and the reputation of Dublin as a city built on culture relies heavily on the their programmes. They include the Abbey Theatre, The Chester Beatty Library, The Hugh Lane Gallery, The National Gallery, The National Library, The National Concert Hall, The Irish Museum of Modern Art, The National Museum and The National Archives.

Dublin of course as a Capital City is a place where National Institutions rub shoulders with Municipal and local on a daily basis. There is a history of collaboration with the National Institutions and Dublin City Council in this Decade of Commemoration, and the idea emerged of a National Cultural Institution working in a City Neighbourhood sharing their expertise, connecting people to their Collections and collaborating with the City Council structures of Area Offices, Arts Office and Libraries.

This was an ambitious silo-busting idea that would, and has, challenged territorial boundaries and ownership of cultural programming.

The big debates I have enjoyed in this project are:

  • Who comes up with cultural ideas?
  • Do they come from Artists? Communities? Individuals? institutions?
  • Can we co-create in the cultural space?

As an Arts Officer I have always felt that we can co-create, and that this will show the public that artists and other cultural players are not mysterious figures, but a living part of the City and very open in my experience to hearing from anyone with a point of view.

Each Dublin City Council Area now has one or two National Cultural Institutions working closely with a Neighbourhood, and citizens of the neighbourhood are talking to them through ‘tea and chats’ groups, and projects are emerging that are causing real excitement.

It is obvious that the context for cultural expression in all its forms is changing.

Over the coming series of blogs we’ll introduce these projects to you, and hear from the Project Managers, the Artists and the Community Groups as they evolve.

Above all, it is obvious that the context for cultural expression in all its forms is changing. One obvious example is how many events are occurring outdoors despite the weather in parks and streets. The impact of social media has been seismic for Culture and it will not be long before events and whole programmes are crowd-created.

For Dublin City Council, an agency that really needs to hear from Dubliners and understand their needs, cultural events also provide an opportunity to communicate and listen in a relaxed and informal way where relationship and understanding can be built.

I look forward to continuing the dialogue!



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  1. Thank you for the great events organsed for the Irishtown/Ringsend/Sandymount area over the last few weeks. I really enjoyed the trip to the Martello Tower in Sandycove,the Valentine’s Day tea dance and then the mystery cabaret tour. All the events were great fun ,informative and very sociable.. Please pass on my thanks to All those involved. Mary O connell, ( Cois ceim pAtron!)

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