The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - HERITAGE -

As the Labour Party pushes for an Ed­u­ca­tional and Cul­tural Hub in Drum­con­dra, based on the prox­im­ity of DCU, St Patrick’s Col­lege and the Marino In­sti­tute of Ed­u­ca­tion, you could for­given for won­der­ing if any small clus­ter of vaguely creative spa­ces are hubs-in-wait­ing. The his­tory of Cul­tural Hubs proves that it’s not al­ways plain sail­ing.

Run­ning along­side the Lif­fey, Tem­ple Bar was set to be a bus sta­tion. Cheap rents, and stal­wart ten­ants, in­clud­ing the Project Arts Cen­tre and the Tem­ple Bar Gallery and Stu­dios, led to artists mov­ing in, though judg­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence, their “bo­hemian” life was pretty damn cold in the win­ter. Group 91, a con­sor­tium of ar­chi­tects, won the com­pe­ti­tion to recre­ate the area as a Cul­tural Quar­ter in 1992. While to­day Tem­ple Bar is fre­quently in the news for su­per­pubs and stag and hen par­ties, don’t for­get it still houses cul­tural hot spots in­clud­ing the orig­i­nal TBG&S and Project, the Gallery of Pho­tog­ra­phy, Smock Al­ley The­atre, the Graphic Stu­dio and The Li­brary Project.

Back in the days when the Ir­ish Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art was just a twin­kle in Char­lie Haughey’s eye, the large glass-fronted ware­house space known as Stack A in Dublin’s Dock­lands (DDDA) was one of the op­tions for Ire­land’s new mu­seum of con­tem­po­rary art. Along­side the found­ing of the Dublin Dock­lands De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity came a cul­tural levy of IR£1 (¤1.27) per sq ft of of­fice space to sub­sidise the cre­ation of a cul­tural space in the area. The levy was never ap­plied, IMMA went to the Royal Hos­pi­tal Kil­main­ham, and Stack A be­came CHQ, now home to EPIC, the Ir­ish Emi­gra­tion Mu­seum.

Along­side the Grand Canal The­atre in the Dock­lands, there was talk of the Abbey The­atre mov­ing to Ge­orge’s Dock, and a 48 me­tre AntonyGorm­leysculp­ture­was­com­mis­sioned but never con­cluded. With all the build­ing go­ing on in the area, the DDDA had the scope to be­come a ma­jor player on the cul­tural scene, and ini­tially things looked like they could be good. Their 2008 Dock­lands Master­plan had, as its pri­mary pol­icy, that they would “en­sure that arts and cul­ture be­come an in­te­gral part of the Dock­lands’ iden­tity…” The doc­u­ment also noted that “the de­vel­op­ment of af­ford­able live-work ac­com­mo­da­tion and stu­dios/ workspaces for creative prac­ti­tion­ers in­clud­ing craft work­ers should be en­cour­aged and pro­moted in the Dock­lands.” To­day, The Green on Red Gallery at Spencer Dock is one of the few cul­tural out­posts in an area where gal­leries and other creative fa­cil­i­ties could eas­ily have been knit­ted in from the out­set.

Else­where, Smith­field looked as if it could be­come in­ter­est­ing, with The Light­house Cin­ema as an an­chor, and the artist’s col­lec­tive Block T tak­ing on a huge dis­used ware­house on the Square, which they con­fig­ured to in­clude 70-plus stu­dio and work­shop spa­ces. But as Smith­field fi­nally be­gan to thrive, the Block T artists were forced out when a com­mer­cial ten­ant eyed up their build­ing. They have since de­camped to Dublin 8, where doubt­less they’re con­sid­er­ing any fur­ther po­ten­tial gen­tri­fi­ca­tion of their new area with a wary gaze.

The ex­pe­ri­ences of both Dublin Dock­lands and the artists of Block T prove that whether the cul­tural el­e­ment of a re­gen­er­a­tion project is top down, or grass­roots, it is gen­er­ally the first to suf­fer when things take a turn for the bet­ter – or for the worse.

While to­day Tem­ple Bar is fre­quently in the news for su­per­pubs and stag and hen par­ties, don’t for­get it still houses cul­tural hot spots

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