Dublin: Creatives' guide

Dublin: Creatives' guide

By Steven Lydon 08/12/11

There's more to Dublin than Guinness, pubs and James Joyce – though we are fans of all three. In fact, IdeasTap is heading over there on 20 December 2011 to run a Futures Fund seminar. With that in mind, Dublin native Steven Lydon lets us into the city's cultural secrets – from live music and annual events to the best art spaces...

The old anecdote that economic stagnation leads to flourishing arts is holding true in Dublin. The city has often been said to have a large number of artists for its size, and it has always punched above its weight culturally. The cost of living is only slowly beginning to match the new economic reality, but it’s getting there.

Independently run social spaces have been the most interesting development in recent times. The Seomra Spraoi was founded to provide an autonomous, not-for-profit space for arts and political activism. It has found a stable home in the north inner city and hosts exhibitions and activist meetings.

Exchange Dublin has sprung up in Temple Bar, offering development and performance space for non-commercial art. Projects generally, but not exclusively, originate from collective working groups. Upcoming is Live@8, a regular contemporary art evening showcasing the work of Irish and international artists in video, film, live art and sound installation in a social context.

Since July 2010, the independently managed Block T in Smithfield has facilitated over 180 artists, 150 events, 200 performers and attracted over 25,000 visitors. It has eleven resident studios and a gallery for hire, but artists are also picked by the studio’s creative team and exhibited for free. There are residency programmes, darkroom facilities, and creative workshops.

One the nicest quiet bars in Dublin is hidden away off George’s Street, upstairs in the Central Hotel Library. Whelan’s remains a good bet for live music, and downstairs in the Lower Deck in Portobello is the best place to find great alternative fare from local bands.

The Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar shows a range of Irish and international cinema that focuses on independent offerings, punctuated by national film festivals showcasing the best of what a country has to offer.

No visit to Dublin is complete without having read Ulysses, but being in town on Bloomsday is certainly one way to compensate. 16 June is the day on which Joyce’s novel is set, and festivities include the re-enactment of key scenes around the city.

National museums in Ireland are free to enter. The National Gallery of Ireland boasts 15,000 paintings, sculptures, works on paper and objets d’art dating from the early thirteenth century through to the mid-twentieth century. It contains the world’s most comprehensive collection of Irish art.

The collections of the Chester Beatty Library stem from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Highlights include Egyptian papyrus texts, illuminated copies of the Qur’an, the Bible, European medieval and renaissance manuscripts. 

The Hugh Lane Gallery claims preeminent status as the first known modern art gallery in the world. Its founding was associated with W B Yeats and includes paintings by Corot, Degas, Monet, Nathaniel Hone and John B Yeats.

There are regular yearly events such as The Fringe Festival, Dublin Culture Night, during which all museums stay open late, the Dublin Flea Market, and Photo Ireland Festival.


Know any other good spots in Dublin? Leave a comment below.

Read our other cultural guides.

Book your place onto the Sky Arts Ignition: Futures Fund seminar at The Science Gallery, Dublin – featuring a talk by singer Camille O'Sullivan, information about the £30,000 prize and the opportunity to meet fellow artists.

Image: Temple Bar District by Frozman, under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

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