Dublin’s Culture Connects is a Dublin City Council initiative that aims to connect Dubliners to their city through making and taking part in culture. Under the umbrella of Dublin’s Culture Connects, The National Neighbourhood is a programme that aims to enable every neighbourhood to know and own their city’s cultural resources, building cultural projects in community settings. The National Neighbourhood connects artists, groups and villages with libraries, museums and creative places to deepen their understanding of each other and themselves.

I was invited to participate as a Visual Artist on a programme of engagement in the South East area alongside Poet Enda Wyley and Coordinator Bernadette Larkin. Working with the National Archives, the National Gallery of Ireland and Dublin City Council, The National Neighbourhood in Dublin South East took place mainly around Kevin Street, Bishop Street, Whitefriar Street, Patrick Street and Rathmines. Overall the programme engaged with groups young and old, spanning schools, students, international residents and senior citizens.

Enda and I worked with students in three secondary schools in the South East area; Synge Street C.B.S., Warrenmount Presentation Secondary School and St. Patricks Cathedral Grammer School. The artforms investigated included literature, visual arts and animation. My research focused on the map collections at The National Archives. The young people also studied these maps and created their own personalised maps of the South East area. We took exploratory tours of the young people’s own neighbourhoods armed with cameras to document the every changing city-scape through their eyes. We looked to portraiture, to marry with Enda’s investigations of the lives of individuals documented at the National Archives. At Dublin Castle we explored the medieval foundations and worked creatively in the Poddle Room above the hidden River Poddle that runs under the city from The Liberties to The Liffey. Layering of imagery seemed a natural response. The young people merged their personal maps with their photographs and portraits to create a series of beautiful collages. I worked closely with Adam Gibney to animate these collages along with skyline line drawings the young people had made from the windows of The National Archives and with the words written by the young people during their sessions with Enda.

The combined collages and texts were displayed publicly as large-scale posters on bus shelters in the Dublin 8 area and subsequently in the newly refurbished Kevin Street Library along with the animation. Enda responded to the project with a series of poems that were combined with the writings of the young people into a publication. I responded with a short animation, assisted by Adam. The project was celebrated in May 2018 at Smock Alley Theatre with all of the participants. A bespoke bag and series of badges were produced, decorated with the skyline drawings, hand-drawn maps and words of the young people.

The artist extends her sincere thanks to the Dublin’s Culture Connects board, the South East Area team, Bernadette Larkin, Enda Wyley, Tom Quinlan and The National Archives staff, Jenny Papassotiriou at Dublin Castle, the teachers and students of Warrenmount, Synge Street and St. Patrick’s.