Join­ing the dots

Mi­randa Driscoll is about to close The Join­ery after seven years. She tells Lau­ren Murphy what she’s learned

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - COVER STORY -

When Mi­randa Driscoll thinks back on the last seven years, there are a few re­grets – but as Frank Si­na­tra fa­mously put it, they are too few to men­tion. Since co-found­ing The Join­ery – a not-for-profit DIY art space in Dublin’s Stoney­bat­ter – with fel­low pho­tog­ra­pher Fear­gal Ward in 2007, Driscoll’s hands-on ap­proach meant that there was lit­tle time for much else.

She jokes that she hasn’t seen much of her friends and fam­ily over the last seven years, but that will change after De­cem­ber 12th, when The Join­ery closes its doors for good.

The space was orig­i­nally in­tended as a “com­mu­nal work­shop” for Driscoll and Ward, even­tu­ally evolv­ing into an ex­hi­bi­tion space and quickly gain­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as an in­for­mal mu­sic venue: many Ir­ish and in­ter­na­tional un­der­ground bands have played there over the years.

So why shut a good thing down? It’s pri­mar­ily down to fi­nan­cial rea­sons, Driscoll says, but also per­sonal ones. A lack of con­sis­tent fund­ing has proven en­ergy-sap­ping and although a suc­cess­ful Fund It cam­paign tem­po­rar­ily ral­lied the troops in 2013, it was ul­ti­mately un­ten­able.

“No­body gets paid, every­body’s a vol­un­teer, you’re ask­ing peo­ple for favours and bar­ter­ing things all the time,” she says.

“It’s not sus­tain­able in the long-term. If we had money we could pay peo­ple and they’d feel a bit more val­ued, and we could put in more in­fra­struc­ture and maybe change the build­ing and do this, that and the other. The re­al­ity is that we weren’t val­ued by gov­ern­ment fund­ing agen­cies and lots of peo­ple didn’t know we ex­isted.”

She says the lo­ca­tion – while in the hub of an in­creas­ingly gen­tri­fied com­mu­nity, it is still a nonde-script build­ing tucked down a nar­row side road – may have played a part in its down­fall.

“I liked the fact that peo­ple have to make the jour­ney over and it’s a bit of an ef­fort to find it,” she says, shrug­ging.

“That said, if I were to have a con­ver­sa­tion with the Arts Coun­cil and I told them that we were mov­ing to Tem­ple Bar or Dame Street, I think they’d perk up. If we were in the city cen­tre we prob­a­bly would have got more ex-po­sure to fun­ders, too – but our pro­gramme is also quite eclec­tic. We don’t fit into main­stream fund­ing cri­te­ria.”


There are im­por­tant lessons to be learned from the ex­pe­ri­ence, she says. Now work­ing as artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Sir­ius Arts Cen­tre in Cobh, she has im­ple­mented much of her ex­pe­ri­ence with The Join­ery in her new role.

“This new job has struc­ture and support and a board, and it’s given me time to talk to prospec­tive fun­ders, stake­hold­ers and peo­ple who are in­ter­ested. I just never had the time to do that with The Join­ery: I was too busy ham­mer­ing a nail into a wall or clean­ing up after a gig to go and have those con­ver­sa­tions. If I was do­ing it again, I would say ‘Make sure you make time to have those con­ver­sa­tions, be­cause they’re re­ally im­por­tant.’

“You can be hid­den away in Dublin 7 and have a small com­mu­nity of peo­ple around you do­ing great stuff, but you have to look at the big­ger pic­ture. About a year ago, I set up an ad­vi­sory board [for The Join­ery], and I should have done that a lot sooner. They had great ideas but by that stage, I think maybe my heart wasn’t in it.”

Build­ing re­la­tion­ships

The im­por­tance of build­ing re­la­tion­ships can’t be un­der­es­ti­mated, she says.

“I’ve learned that you get so much more done and so much eas­ier and in a more pleas­ant way when you have good, solid re­la­tion­ships with peo­ple. I have this wealth of con­tacts in my phone from the last seven years, and the re­la­tion­ships that I’ve built up through The Join­ery are ones that I’ll never let go of.”

There will be sad­ness when the doors close, she ad­mits, but also hope that the em­bers of The Join­ery kin­dle the next cre­ative idea in the area.

“I kind of feel sad that it’s com­ing to an end, and I feel sorry in a way. I do feel that there will be a gap. In a city that’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mer­cialised, there is a need for a not-for-profit space, and a com­mu­nity space. I re­gret that I am tak­ing that away and I doubt some­times whether or not I should have passed it on to some­one else rather than close it down, but I feel like it’s braver to go out with a bang, rather than to just keep stag­ger­ing through.

“It was a place for try­ing stuff out; it wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily the place for for­mal, fi­nalised, pol­ished work to be pre­sented. It was a place for process, which is what Fear­gal and I wanted it to be when we first started it. The Join­ery’s fi­nal event is a gig by The Worm­holes on De­cem­ber 12th. the­join­

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