By Aifric Ni Ruairc, Community Engagement Worker
There has been so much happening over the past few months as part of Press Play. Now that the project is coming to an end it is wonderful to have the time to sit back and reflect on all of the amazing work that has been done by the talented artists and participants of Press Play across Cabra, Finglas, Whitehall and Ballymun. I couldn’t possibly go into detail on every single event, but here are some of my personal highlights from The National Neighbourhood: Press Play.
The Culture Club was such a fantastic initiative and I am so glad to hear that it will be continuing over the coming year!
The Culture Club was a social group for anyone who wanted a bit of an adventure, a place to meet new friends or who simply had a thirst for knowledge! The Club went on fortnightly cultural excursions around Collins Barracks: The National Museum of History & Decorative Arts. You might not think that one museum could keep you coming back for more week after week, but Collins Barracks was so packed full of quality exhibitions, hidden treasures and history that even after all of our visits we were left wanting more.
As Culture Clubbers we were treated like VIPs on every trip taken to the Museum as we were guided, educated and enlightened by a host of friendly, open and knowledgeable staff. It felt as if the Museum was there especially for us. But the truth is the Museum, and its sister museums are there for us. For all of us.
Collins Barracks is free and all of its exhibitions – including the incredible exhibition Proclaiming A Republic: The 1916 Rising – have been carefully thought out and designed so that anyone can enjoy them. I can’t wait to get back!
The Abbey Theatre Club
Another highlight from the fantastic Press Play project was attending Anna Karenina at the Abbey with a fantastic group of English-as-a-Second-Language students from Cabra. The group was entirely made up of people who had never visited the Abbey Theatre before and it was brilliant to join them on their maiden voyage to our National Theatre.
Marina Carr’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s famous novel was fabulous but it was quite a different experience watching it with such a diverse group of people, some of whom had read the book in the original Russian while at school. They were seeing the play through a new lens, this was no longer a story they had been forced to read while in school, but an epic love story!
We followed our visit to The Abbey up with a screening of director Joe Wright’s 2012 film version of Anna Karenina in Cabra Library. The screening was open to everyone and it was an absolutely fantastic evening with Anna Karenina-themed snacks and plenty of chat before and after the film.
Walk of Fame Workshops
One of the most unexpected aspects of Press Play for me, were the Walk of Fame Workshops which were kindly hosted by Ballymun, Finglas and Cabra libraries with discussions facilitated by the wonderful Joy Ní Dhomhnaill.
The idea behind the workshops had been to celebrate the depth of talent in the North West Area, something that isn’t always recognised. We posed the question: if you were to create your own theoretical Hollywood Walk of Fame or Hall of Fame for the area – who would you include?
We expected people to nominate celebrities like Brendan O’Carroll, Bono or Glen Hansard. But what we got went much deeper than that. People came to the open workshops and instead of nominating well-known celebrities, they nominated the people who made them proud to come from their area.
People talked about their tutors who were helping them to return to education in adulthood, their best friends, their siblings. Unsung heroes were celebrated; table-tennis champions, a forgotten Postmistress, the local lollipop lady.
We thought we were going to get a celebrity Hall of Fame, but we discovered that the real heroes of the North West Area are the people who live there: they are the ones who make the area what it is.
And more …
There is so much more to mention, from extravaganzas featuring participants at The Abbey Theatre, Collins Barracks and axis:Ballymun, to the incredible pop-up “Museum of Sport &Song” at the Gallery in axis:Ballymun, and the inspiring “School of Identity Museum” at Margaret Aylward Community College – there was just so much to celebrate as part of Press Play.
Some of my other favourite moments from Press Play were seeing Pat McGrath play the title character in Dermot Bolger’s Bang Bang, the wonderful Sian Ni Mhuirí facilitate an imaginative day of drama with children from Balseskin Reception Centre, and working on costumes with the children of Cabra.
I was also lucky enough to get to work with such a talented bunch of artists – George Higgs, Sean Millar, Veronica Dyas, Orla Kelly, Rhona Byrne, John Conway, Sarah Corcoran and Johnathon Ho and Sian Ni Mhuirí just to name a few! Not to mention Emma Connors and the staff of axis:Ballymun, the amazing staff at The Abbey, everyone at Ballymun, Finglas and Cabra libraries and of course the heroes from Collins Barracks. That isn’t even touching on the groups and participants who took part in the project. All in all it was an absolute dream!
The National Neighbourhood: Press Play has been such an incredible project and I feel so honoured to have been a part of it. It is about time we Dubliners celebrated our diverse and evolving culture, our history and pride and our talent. I can’t wait to see what the Dublin’s Culture Connects team do next!