Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dublin: One City, One Book

Last year when Dublin was named a UNESCO City of Literature I wasn't sure whether to be delighted or to dismiss the title as irrelevant and worthless. Would the designation spur on creativity and the development of cultural events or would it just be a nice but meaningless accolade? In that light I'm looking forward to the One City, One Book initiative by Dublin City Council. Sure, this isn't new - it's run for several years - but the programme is impressive and the tie-in events with the Abbey Theatre are particularly promising.

In the words of the website:
2011 will be the sixth year of the Dublin: One City, One Book project, designed to encourage everyone in the city to read the same book during the month of April each year. The project promotes reading in a city which boasts one of the world’s greatest literary heritages including four Nobel Laureates and was a major element of Dublin's success in becoming a UNESCO City of Literature.

This year's book is Joseph O'Connor's highly-acclaimed Ghost Light, the story of the love affair between playwright JM Synge and the actress Molly Allgood. Last year's Irish Times review is here, although personally I'm going to read the book before I read any commentary or reviews.

(I'm going to pick up a copy from the Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

3FE and Fallon & Byrne

Nice article by 3FE on their expansion into wholesale - not only do they already serve the best coffee in Dublin, they're training up staff in other cafes. Fallon & Byrne is one of my favourite shops in Dublin but for a long time I had a fairly low opinion of their coffee. That has of course changed hugely in recent times.

Best of luck to everyone involved. It's wonderful to see Dublin's coffee culture developing like this.

Monday, March 28, 2011

French Choral Music in St. Stephen’s Pepper Canister Church

The DIT Chamber Choir are performing in St. Stephen’s Pepper Canister Church, Dublin 2 on Wednesday 30th March. The event is free and is organised by Alliance Francaise.

Berlioz - La mort d’Ophélie
Saint-Saëns - Quam dilecta Op. 148
Fauré - Tantum ergo Op. 55
Fauré - Requiem Op. 48

Although admission is free the Alliance Francaise website requests that you RSVP.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lighthouse Cinema: an appreciation

Like many people, I was surprised to hear this week that the Lighthouse cinema in Smithfield is in trouble and may have to close.  A massive rent increase is the culprit, in a contract clearly designed in different economic times.  At first, I was horrified, then outraged, and then I thought about reasons why.  Some articles said the cinema was out of the way: but there's a solid base of young professionals living in the area.  Sure, it's out of the way for me, but I live in Swords.  I've made the effort to get there but not as often as I'd like.  It consistently shows top quality foreign arthouse and indie movies.  It could do more to promote itself.  I recently thought of buying someone a "friends of the Lighthouse" type birthday gift, only to find they didn't have one (though apparently are setting one up).  The space is beautifully designed, and it can be rented out for other functions.  It's mercifully devoid of mashed-in popcorn and hoards of kids.  Inevitably, someone has already set up a "Save the Lighthouse" facebook page (you can insert a rant here about how people who aren't on facebook can't 'like' this, even if we want to and how I can't even look at the page without a login).  Anyway, since the space is designed as a cinema, surely the landlord would rather get some rent than none if they close.

Lighthouse: all my fingers are crossed for you and I look forward to many more visits.

Review: HEROIN

If there were an award for sheer damn hard work, for doing your homework, for taking time with a project, for fixing it solidly into its (real world) setting, HEROIN would surely win it. And as it is, it's already won the Spirit of the Fringe award from the ABSOLUT Fringe.

HEROIN is a play about heroin and heroin users. In some respects it's also - at least in its current form - the story of Ballymun, even of Ireland. The play is filled with wonderful, powerful moments, from the portrayal of drug-taking (although we've all seen Trainspotting, right?) to the excerpt of dialogue from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

As you might expect from a successful Fringe show the structure of the play is unorthodox. At times it has a hint of the Beckett to it; but there is change, there is progress... sort of. The more things change, the more heroin stays the same. The narrative trick of the play is that the characters aren't junkies, they're actors preparing for a play about heroin. The result is an exceptionally thin "fourth wall" - at one point early on one of the actors asks the audience to stand for the national anthem. (And yes, they stood. A few even sang along.) Actress Lauren Larkin's emotional outpourings are made all the stronger by the lack of sharp divisions between the actors, characters, story and audience. The opening scene of the play is similarly ingenious - at first you might not even realise the play has started.

For all that, I do have one criticism and it's fairly serious. At about 105 minutes with no interval, the play felt too long. It started very nicely, but lost momentum along the way. Yes, this suits the narrative and concept, and yes it allows the actors to really take their time with good material, but it felt as if a little less would have been more.

If you're in the Ballymun area or if you're looking to see an unusual and clever play, HEROIN is well worth a look. Due to the lack of pace towards the end I'm not sure I can wholeheartedly recommend it to a broader general audience. It's good, but not a must-see.

HEROIN continues its run in Axis Ballymun tonight (Friday 25th) at 8pm and on Saturday 26th at 3pm and 8pm. Tickets cost €15/€12.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

National Concert Hall: Beethoven (and other lesser musicians)

A Beethoven enthusiast I know alerted me to an upcoming concert in the National Concert Hall which he reckons could be good. It features, as he put it, "Beethoven and filler". The "filler" is Respighi and then Boccherini. After these warm-up bandsItalian composers are finished with the finale is Beethoven's 7th.

Conductor Dmitri Jurowski

Film preview: Rewind

Rewind is a new Irish thriller starring Amy Huberman and Alan Leech. The story centres on Karen (Huberman), a woman leading a happy suburban life - until she's forced to confront the past she's been hiding. Well-acted, dramatic and not overly predictable, Rewind is enjoyable and worth seeing.

Huberman deservedly won an IFTA (Irish Film and Television Award) for her lead role. Leech also does a good job, creating a real sense of tension without resorting to hackneyed stereotypes or overplaying his character. Simon Delaney adds a lighter tone to the otherwise quite grim mood, keeping the setting more credible: this isn't some weird, dark version of modern Ireland; Karen's comfortable suburban life still exists if only she can return to it.

It's nice to see quality films like this being produced in Ireland. In many ways the plot could have been set anywhere, but I enjoyed the film a little more than I otherwise would have due to its setting and use of Irish actors.

Rewind opens in cinemas nationwide on March 25th and has a 15A certificate.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fund It

There's an excellent new website called which will provide an easy way for arts projects to get "crowdfunding" i.e. donations from large numbers of interested members of the general public. For example, someone trying to raise funds to make a play or film could use the site to seek patronage from fans.

While the concept isn't entirely new, creating a standardised, reliable, trustworthy platform for crowdfunding is potentially very beneficial: not only would it be inefficient for each project to independently create its own system, but more importantly this new site might help with the key issues of quality and trust. If I'm going to give money, I want to know I'm not being ripped off.

The site has only just been launched today (22/02/2011) so right now there aren't many projects. I hope is a success - and I'm already eagerly thinking of donating. Whether you're a future patron or a starving artiste, go have a look.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Science Gallery - 'Memory Lab'

The latest exhibition in Science Gallery is Memory Lab:

MEMORY LAB, a month-long LAB IN THE GALLERY experience at Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin, invites the public to take part in a range of real, scientific experiments into how we remember or why we forget. Be prepared for a barrage of information you will have to recall including numbers, letters, faces and even smells!

I went along on the opening weekend and tried out the 'Head Like a Sieve?' experiment. I do a lot of work with numbers so I was pleased to find I did quite well at it - I think! There's a wide range of experiments to test various forms of memory, so I'm planning to go back and try more of them. (And if you're there on a Friday evening, why not try the tapas and sangria deal Science Gallery offers for just €7.50? Science is more fun when you've been drinking!)

As well as being entertaining, there's also a more serious intention behind the exhibition. The experiments are anonymous but the data will be collated at the end of the exhibition to look for correlations with personal atttributes such as education and health - volunteers taking the experiments fill out a consent form in advance. If you take part you'll also receive a number so that you can look up your results on-line later on (when the project finishes).

I enjoyed this and I'll be back for more. Worth a visit.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Port House restaurant

I'm a pretty generous reviewer, perhaps too generous. Whether it's restaurants, plays or exhibitions, I aim to find things I like, so most of the time I have the luxury of writing quite positive reviews. The Port House on South William Street is going to be an exception. I've had many enjoyable meals in the Port House's sister restaurant, Bar Pintxo's in Temple Bar, so I expected to be impressed by the Port House - but I wasn't.

The Menu Rapido sounds like a great deal: two tapas and a glass of wine for €10. "15 minutes or it's free!", says the menu.

The food was good. The wine was OK. The waiter was friendly. However a lunch menu called "Rapido" implies a certain... swiftness, rapidity, lack of wasting my time. I sat down outside; several minutes later there had been no sign of a waiter or waitress. I wandered inside and was told someone would be right out. More waiting. I went in again to ensure the staff still knew I was outside. More waiting. After I ordered I made sure to time how long it would take for food to arrive - it was just barely inside the 15 minutes. Getting a bill was also slow. In total from arrival to leaving I was at the restaurant for almost an hour.

Oh, and some of the items on the menu weren't available.

This is a nice restaurant, but its competitors in the "SoGo" area have many cheap, fast lunch offers. Pick up the pace, Port House.

Dine in Dublin week returns starting on 21st March 2011... but the Port House isn't part of it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Designer Mart in Temple Bar

Designer Mart restarted last week. It's a collection of stalls selling high-quality jewellery, clothes, craftwork, hats and the like. It runs each Saturday in Cow's Lane in Temple Bar.

Photos from last week...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Photos from Dublin's St Patrick's Day Parade 2011

St Patrick's Day - main Dublin parade

The information on the official website isn't the clearest, so in case you're wondering: the parade starts at noon from Parnell Square.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


What a fabulous spring day in our lovely city!

A perfect day for my first time using the wonderful Dublin Bikes scheme.  Having signed up last year, I'd somehow never gotten around to using the bikes.  So today, when activities took me from Abbey St to Kildare St, then the National Archives on Bishop St and back to Eden Quay, using the bikes seemed a no-brainer.   Cycling through the city, despite the cars, I felt I'd travelled back in time and half expected to see Leopold Bloom or Rashers wandering nearby.  I cycled in Stephen's Green too, which was a delight, even if I wasn't entirely sure if it was allowed!  I only did short journeys today so it cost me a total of nothing to zip around the city.

It's a very long time indeed since I last was on a bicycle.

And unsurprisingly, it is just like riding a bike.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Photo Fest Ireland 2011

Photo Fest Ireland 2011 is on April 3rd in the Crowne Plaza Conference Centre, Dublin Airport. This is a trade and seminar show for photographers rather than being aimed at the general public.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Urban Party @ The Complex

The Complex
Constantin Gurdgiev
Dave and I were both at this interesting evening of aspirations for Dublin on Wednesday.  I'm not really sure how to classify The Complex in Smithfield - part small theatre (sans seating), part function room, part industrial warehouse.  Regardless of type: it suited the Urban Party very well.  A small stage was at the front and each speaker had 3 mins to outline a vision for Dublin.  If they went over, a klaxony-airhorn thing sounded.  I wrote notes on almost every speaker and they've come out like a stream of consciousness.  But don't worry, I won't inflict my Joycean style ramblings on you: I can summarise.  The full list of speakers is here and there was only one no show.  One tiny complaint, possibly due to my own ignorance; I didn't know some of the people or why they had been chosen.  Many of them were touting a particular plan or bugbear.  It was immediately obvious who were the politicians and lecturers: those people were at home with public speaking and were mostly clear, concise and "on message". Some of the city employees (architect, planners, etc) should have been better but I found myself zoning out (oh god, terrible terrible pun there but I'm leaving it in) during their 3 minutes.  Cllr Dermot Lacey and economist Constantin Gurdgiev got the biggest applause of the night.
Dermot Lacey
Lacey talked about the problems of 4 regional authorities for one city and how even a unanimous vote of the Dublin City Council could still be countermanded by public servants.  He mentioned that there are 44 separate authorities involved  in managing Dublic traffic.  His call for the State to take back the Bank of Ireland houses of parliament (still always the central bank for me: it's round and in the centre of town) for Dublin yielded massive approval.  Senator Ivana Bacik and Elaine Byrne also were for this in some format.  Byrne talked about how Dublin had no real heart - just a commercial centre and O'Connell St, which is kind a nothing street these days.   When you look at 18th century images of the capital, you see that originally Sackville St had a pedestrianised mall down the centre rather than the traffic avoiding walkway it is today.  On a side point, she was wearing a great knitted dress, and I wondered if she'd made it herself.  Dave has unhelpfully not taken a picture of it so I can't show you.
Elaine Byrne
Michael McDermott
Michael McDermott of Le Cool read out a list of things people reading Le Cool had suggested which included butchers that open in the evening, integrated ticketing, late night coffee bars, chess tables, forcing shopowners and businesses to maintain the area in front of their premises and the ever popular (at least with me), swings. In a similar vein, Leanne Caulfield of the 2nd level students union spoke eloquently about improving the quality of life for kids in Dublin with more playgrounds, safe spaces they can use to meet for free and setting up youth groups so they aren't just hanging around on the corners of our city. 
Aaron Copeland - not the famous composer, presumably.
Aaron Copeland of Upstart spoke some words but I was mostly looking at the fabulous images they had adorned lampposts with during the election campaign.  The nature of the event meant that some people had completely contrary views on the future of Dublin.  Gerry Godley wanted the city to be smaller and think smaller and better.  Dick Gleeson, the city planner, was curiously against creating any tall buildings in Dublin so I guess he wants it to be even more spreadout.  Maxim Laroussi, another architect, wanted to take what we already had and change its usage while creating some sort of heart around the Liffey with cafes and parks.  Kieran Rose outlined a vision for a new Dublin library, perhaps on the site of the hated motor tax office behind the Four Courts.  He thought we could find a 21st century Andrew Carnegie to possibly fund the project too.  I'm all for more books.  Sandra O'Connell wanted us to elect a city poet and read several nice lines about Dublin from various Irish poets.  Two quotes that really stuck in my head from the evening were Paul Keogh's "is Dublin just going to be famous for Guinness and craic or is there something more?" and Constantin Gurdgiev's opinion that we should "tax land" because it can't move offshore.  A few people talked again about this notion of an elected mayor for the city.  I'm not sure why we can't merge the office of Lord Mayor and just make that office elected.  Do we really need a 6th mayor in the county?  Surely not.  My favourite amalgam of several ideas from the evening is the notion of a pedestrianised College Green heart with the houses of parliament returned to Dubliners housing a museum about our fair city.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oxegen line-up for 2011

The list of acts for Oxegen 2011 is out. You'd have to hate life itself not to find something to like.

Tickets are now on sale. Fair play to MCD: they've decided to keep prices frozen at 2008 levels and they have a deposit scheme to let customers pay in installments and they're offering customers who order in March a chance to win special exclusive privileges such as meet-and-greets.


Gingerfest is on March 12th, "a night to celebrate our red haired brethren". It's in aid of UNICEF.

Eric Cartman would be horrified.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Love:live music

April 8th is National Music Day, and love:live music is a collection of free live music events to celebrate the day. Here's the current list of events in Dublin. I'm planning to go to the Piperlink recital. Piperlink combines uilleann pipe music with a spoken-word history of the pipes.

The organisers of love:live, Music Network, are very keen to promote not just passive listening to music but also participation - there are many skilled amateur musicians who keep their musical abilities hidden away. If you're interested, there's still time to submit an event for National Music Day. I particularly liked the suggestion of live music being played in the workplace.

Dine in Dublin week - March 2011

Dine in Dublin Restaurant Week returns soon. It runs from 21st to 27th March. The idea is that participating restaurants offer a special promotional menu for €25 or €30.

I'd recommend La Mere Zou or L'Gueuleton.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Terminal 2 @ Dublin Airport

So I was in Berlin for the last few days and I can safely inform you that there is no Dublin Culture in Germany, though I did spot an Irish pub. However, making air travel mildly more exciting for the first time in years, was my first visit to Terminal 2. It was still dark upon my arrival (and watch out drivers: the layout has all changed).
The inevitable abstract airport sculpture!

It's really really shiny.  Everything is clean and bright.  It's full of chrome.  Signage could be better in the check-in area - it wasn't at all obvious where I should bring my bag, since I'd done a webcheck-in.  There's 3 floors, the check-in floor, the arrivals and then departures.  I'm a little sad to see WH Smith instead of Easons, though later I heard both are actually there.

Food options outside were thin on the ground at 6am.  They have Diep Le Shaker (not that I'd ever want spicy noodles for breakfast), a bar (open), O'Briens and something else that wasn't open.

I headed "airside".  You're greeted by a blank wall (fail) and then you hit duty free, which is filled with the obvious (perfume, alcohol, cosmetics, handbags) and the less obvious (Laduree macaroon, anyone?)  Dylan Bradshaw, apparently a celebrity hairdresser, will have one of his minions blow dry your hair while people watch.  Food in here was typically over-priced.  A plain croissant, porridge and tea came to €8.50, though I readily admit that it was enough porridge to feed a small army. 

Did I mention there's a chocolate lounge?  Sadly it's not made of chocolate, you can just eat and drink it there.  Very swiss looking but out of place in an airport, as is the champagne bar.

All in all, I like it.  It does exactly what it says on the tin.  And there's plenty of tubey-tunnels to the planes, so you're safe taking your coat off once inside.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Russian Festival: "Pancake Day"

On Sunday the Russian Festival will be at Cows Lane and Essex Street in Temple Bar. There'll be music, other entertainment, Russian food stalls and most importantly of course: pancakes. Mmmmm.

The event runs from 11:00 to 17:00.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oxegen line-up for 2011...

...isn't out just yet, actually. It won't be long though - details will be up on on 8th March at 8pm.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

IAF: Urban Party

The Irish Architecture Foundation (IAF) are running an event called Urban Party on Wednesday 9th March in Smithfield:

The URBAN PARTY has invited 20 diverse and acclaimed ‘Dublin Voices’ to speak for just 3 minutes each on their vision for our city. That’s 60 minutes of fast moving and rotating urban perspectives on the future of Dublin.

An economically vibrant, socially inclusive and culturally dynamic city matters to the future success of Ireland. At a challenging time for our City and Country, the Urban Party provides an opportune platform or political soapbox to lobby our new government on the way forward for Dublin.

Dublin Writers Festival 2011

This year's Dublin Writers Festival runs from May 23rd to May 29th. The program will be announced on Wednesday April 27th.

As part of the Festival, Michael Palin will be in the National Concert Hall on Wednesday May 25th. Tickets are €20 (with concessions available) but if you book before March 16th you can get a ticket for €15.

Anything Goes @ The Millbank Theatre in Rush

My favourite local theatre, The Millbank in Rush, are staging the Cole Porter classic "Anything Goes" from 10th - 19th March.  Ever since I first heard the song sung in Mandarin by Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom, I've loved it. Rush Dramatic Society will probably sing the whole thing in English but it'll be just as good.  In case it wasn't already obvious, I love musical theatre so I'll be rounding up victimsfriends to come with me.

Tickets can be booked by emailing them or calling their box office between 10 & 16:00 daily.