Joining the dots
Miranda Driscoll is about to close The Joinery after seven years. She tells Lauren Murphy what she’s learned
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.”
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. thejoinery.org