Project Manager Dominic Campbell has worked with communities in the South Central area of Dublin on Dublin’s Culture Connects’ The National Neighbourhood since Autumn 2017.
You meet them in the hospital, near the older people’s wards and you meet them in the care homes, and they are calm and resigned or excited, or bewildered, having a good day or a bad one. And they always have something else on their mind, have an over-worn cuff, carry a re-used plastic bag, are dressed for practicality. And they are always tired.
You meet them at the fun and frequently hilarious Azure sessions which IMMA and Chester Beaty Library run for people with a diagnosis of alzhiemers or dementia, where there’s a facilitated tour and caring gets to take a sort of break in a creative kind of headspace.
We meet them at the Community Choir in James’s on a Monday morning, and coming and going from Hollybrook Lodge while we’re going in and out with Tom Meskell and Robbie Blake bringing a little colour making a little song.
I met one by the glass cases in Chester Beatty taking a long enraptured pause to look at a Japanese drawing of a garden, all arabesques and turquoise.
“Isn’t it beautiful” she whispered.
Behind the re-claimed barracks, across the nicely planted garden which is starting to settle in, is a nondescript building that looks just functional.
Inside it’s all corridor and cleanliness. Hustle-ing nurses and industrial caring.
But pause for a moment, slow down towards the speed of the sick, and you’ll see small miracles everywhere.
In the sports hall on one side of the curtains is the football.
And on the other is a gift.
They come gradually on a Friday morning,
Come to sit and eat at long tables, four one way, and one across like the high table in a Viking Hall. “That’s the women’s table”.
They come like people from a war, worn ragged by life, or they come for the victory of a shy smile. They walk in alone, or are wheeled, come in small stumbling groups, or floating on electric chairs.
And they are all treated with respect.
And they are all treated like they belong.
And all are offered food.
Sean waits. Sean waits patiently. Sean listens. Sean is introduced and talks and waits.
Sean waits for words. Sean waits for words that work like compasses. That indicate a direction travelled or puzzle to be unravelled like string.
Karaoke in the corner is a stage of life. And life comes. Life comes in with a bold grin and a dance wiggle and a half lyric by someone known by their first name, Johnny or Madonna or Estelle. And life shouts with laughter. And is heard. And we all pause from our sausages to reward life with the sound of laughter and clapping.
“it doesn’t smell like a hospital”
“my aim is that I might have a new friend”
“I wasn’t sure you’d be here I haven’t been out since last Tuesday”
“let me tell you….”
“were you at the match…”
“I sing like a crow”
“is she late again?”
And no one seems to mind, there’s tea and a biscuit, and everyone is ready, and all are glad to be here waiting for all the chat to settle and the one song to be sung.
Dominic Campbell, April 2018
With ‘The National Neighbourhood’, we want every neighbourhood to know and ‘own’ their city’s cultural resources, so we build cultural projects in community settings. We connect artists, groups and villages with libraries, museums and creative places to deepen their understanding of each other and themselves.
The National Neighbourhood spans the Dublin City Council region, and brings together Dublin City Council’s Library and Archives, the area offices, the city arts office and Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, in partnership with National Cultural Insitutions: the Abbey Theatre, the National Museum of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Concert Hall, the Chester Beatty, the National Archives and IMMA.0