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It Takes A Village: Dream on

Coolock Group working with artist Dorothy Smith and writer Peter Kearns

Co Author:
Dorothy Smith
© by Kevin Handy
Lane Way Group Drawing by Coolock Group Marker on Card 59 x 59 cms
Lane Way Group Drawing by Coolock Group
Marker on Card
59 x 59 cms

Dream On

Children play local
Walking hand in hand
Nature expressing
side by side

Hall, magnificence
Feasting daily dosh
through Love friend wedding
Giving The Results, resolution

Eviction from their houses
And, I freeze in terror
I scare, where am i going
metal smell, ice grey jail

Screaming with the smell of Land
Village we’re given

Sonnet written by Coolock group, with writer Peter Kearns

The Santry River rises in semi-rural North County Dublin and exits via a culvert into Dublin Bay near St Anne’s Park, Raheny. Along its route it flows south of Dublin Airport and past the NCT Centre in Ballymun; is culverted under the M50; rises again in Santry Demesne, continues through the Stardust Memorial Park and the grounds of Cadbury’s Ireland, both in Coolock; and onward through Raheny village.

Along its route it is everything from drainage ditch to ornamental garden feature; it disappears from view, is an eyesore; and gives occasional glimpses of its Arcadian possibilities.

Santry River, Coolock
Santry River, Coolock
Like life, the Santry River keeps flowing, sometimes with no help from its friends.
Clonshaugh/Coolock Industrial Park, Northside Shopping Centre and Coláiste Dulaigh need to step up to the mark here.


The Santry River was high in the consciousness of the Coolock group and it featured in many of the discussions, photographs, drawings and walks that we undertook as part of ‘It Takes a Village’, the North Central project in The National Neighbourhood.

The Santry River’s potential as an amenity, as a means of connecting communities, of strengthening pride and local identity were all identified by the group, while noting that currently the river is very under-utilised as a public resource. At the group’s last meeting in December, they traced the route of the Santry River over their collaborative drawings – connecting the drawings and making visible connections between Coolock and the places and people along its route.

Coolock Group Drawing the Santry River
Coolock Group Drawing the Santry River

The Coolock Group originally came together as participants in a Communiversity course run by Maynooth University in Coolock Library in 2015. Members of that group were invited to become part of the Dublin City Council’s Dublin’s Culture Connects : The National Neighbourhood project.

We have been meeting on Friday mornings in St Brendan’s Parish Hall in Coolock, a warm, welcoming and bright space in the original Parish Church in the centre of the village, and also in IMMA (the Irish Museum of Modern Art) our linked National Cultural Institution. Over a number of visits we explored the many experiences that IMMA has to offer including, a fascinating tour and history of the 17th Century building; using the workshop spaces to work on drawings; meeting Helen O’Donoghue, Senior Curator, Engagement and Learning; viewing works from the IMMA Collection, and the Lucien Freud exhibition; and exploring the gardens on a beautiful winter’s morning.

Over the eight weeks of The National Neighbourhood project the group have been investigating public space in Coolock Village and in their own neighbourhoods. They used different methods and media; walking, the importance of experiencing and paying attention to place; photography, recording and working on ‘Put Yourself in the Picture’; drawing, a way of engaging with ideas and experiences of public space and writing, as a means of expressing and further exploring these ideas.

We got a definition of ‘public space’ online and amended it for our own use:

Public space, also called public realm, includes all exterior places, linkages (such as lanes, steps) and all built elements that are physically or visually accessible to the general public regardless of whether in public or private ownership.

These elements can include, but are not limited to, streets, pedestrian ways, bike-ways, bridges, plazas, nodes, squares, transportation hubs, gateways, parks, waterfronts, natural features, view corridors, landmarks and building interfaces.

Imagery gathered by group members shows a concern with the proliferation of vacant privately owned premises. The lack, in places, of a sense of ownership and care, the fencing of lands impeding or denying access, under-utilised public and private spaces, overt commercial signage and the conflict between public and private provision and responsibilities, while also acknowledging the presence of significant and well-cared for sites, historic and otherwise in the area.

Dream On (detail) Collaborative Drawing by Coolock Group - Carbon on Paper

Dream On (Detail) Collaborative Drawing by Coolock Group- Carbon on Paper



Dream On (detail) Collaborative Drawing by Coolock Group Carbon on Paper

As part of this process, urban researcher Jackie Bourke led a presentation and discussion on women’s experience of public space.

These concerns and images were used to develop the three collaborative drawings which were connected using the course of the Santry River. The writer Peter Kearns worked with the group from this imagery. All the group members wrote individual Haiku poems and then collaborated and used these poems as the basis for the sonnet ‘Dream on’.

Part of the visual research also took the form of a project called ‘Put Yourself in the Picture’. Each group member has been taking photographs of themselves in specific places in Coolock and their own neighbourhoods that they would like to see changed, and saying what change they would like to see.

Coolock Group visit Main St Clongriffin where all the units are empty
Coolock Group visit Main St Clongriffin where all the units are empty
Main Street Clongriffin. All the units in this block are empty. This area was developed in 2005 and not one of these units has been occupied in that time. It creates such an illusion of abandonment and emptiness. The sense of neighbourhood in this area is seriously lacking. I would like to see people occupying these premises, providing a service for everyone so you can feel like you are somewhere local…as being local gives you a sense of security.


Banks of the Santry River, Springdale Road
Banks of the Santry River, Springdale Road
Above is the remnants of a Halloween Bonfire, one month on, forgotten and unloved on the banks of the Santry River at the entrance to Coláiste Dhúlaigh, Springdale Road. This area is passed by hundreds of school children and their teachers on a daily basis. Our students are tomorrow’s politicians. What does such neglect say to them? Again this area needs to be cleaned and landscaped so the grass can be maintained short to discourage fly-tipping. I think this could be turned into a beautiful picnic area for the students to use all-year round.


The Santry River behind Northside Shopping Centre
The Santry River behind Northside Shopping Centre
I just don’t like to see rubbish in the precious water, especially the disgusting trolleys! I hope we will learn to respect and appreciate the lovely open spaces with have!


The Lock Keeper's Cottage, Newcomen Bridge, Dublin 1
The Lock Keeper’s Cottage, Newcomen Bridge, Dublin 1
This cottage was the home of the former Lock Keeper at No 1 Lock on the Royal Canal, North Strand. It has been vacant for a number of years. With the housing crisis in Dublin, this cottage would make a lovely home for some family.
Bull Island where the Santry River flows into the sea
Bull Island where the Santry River flows into the sea
The Bull Island Nature Reserve is home to 180 different species of birds. Unfortunately, this particular spot is also home to discarded masonry and washed up rubbish of all kinds. Volunteers do their best, but regular Council clean ups are needed.


Themes that have emerged from this process include concern over dereliction and neglect, litter and dumping, vacant and unfinished developments, and in particular, concern for the natural environment in the form of the Santry River and its potential as a resource and as a way of connecting communities. We are considering putting this research into publication form so that it can act both as a statement from the group and a body of research body of research that could form the basis of future work.



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