With its plush red carpets and deep leather armchairs giving it true old world glamour, the Stella Cinema seemed like a fitting venue to celebrate two local anniversaries and the culmination of the latest project from the National Neighbourhood.
Last Monday night (December 2nd), The Harold’s Cross Ladies Club were celebrating their 50th year anniversary while the Harold’s Cross Festival was marking 10 years of festival fun. Both groups had been working with Dublin City Council Culture Company’s Linda Devlin, artist Peter Varga of Humans of Dublin, local artist Eoin Mac Lochlainn, and filmmaker David Knox to explore new connections and collaborations in the city. The result was Life Lines, a book of the women’s personal stories and a short film about the Harold’s Cross Festival.
After an anticipatory rustle of paper, Teresa O’Brien, president of the Harold’s Cross Ladies Club took to the podium. She joined the club herself in 1972, when she returned to Dublin with two small children after several years in London, and described it as the best thing she ever did. Recounting stories of variety shows, concerts, quizzes, cabarets, fish and chips on the way home and sing songs on the bus, she also mentioned the importance of the groups for women who at that time, had few outlets outside of the home.
She described the club as a magical group where never a cross word is said. The sense of fun from the group was certainly visible in club members Elsie, Maura and Mary who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying throwing popcorn at photographer Marc (at his request, in fairness).
Club member Maura Kelly read her poem Dreams of a Housewife which balanced dreaming about Jimmy Choos with the gratitude for the love of her husband and two children. Pauline McDonnell spoke too and emphasized again the importance of the club and how she made it to Rosary Hall come rain, hail, or shine.
Just as a desire for connection and community had inspired the formation of the ladies group, Tara Uí Adhmail of local group Glór Mológa, spoke of the need for a parents group who would like to chat as Gaelige and so she and other parents set one up together. Tara shared a beautiful poem she wrote during the project, which celebrated this ‘self-made village’.
A short video further showcased the spirit of the community, this time at the Harold’s Cross Festival. Run by locals who are passionate about where they live and giving their village its own identity, Festival Manager Tony McDermott summed it up in his speech when he said “Harold’s Cross is blooming.”
Towards the end of the evening, Linda recalled how some of the Harold’s Cross ladies told her about going on dates in the old Stella cinema and how you could tell how much your date had spent on the seats by where you were sitting. (The balcony were the best and most expensive seats back then.) It was, unsurprisingly, an early indicator of how successful the rest of the evening was going to be.
In that full circle moment, you’re reminded that when people choose to come together, what really happens is that new communities are formed with shared stories and histories. The thread of those collective stories continues on, weaving its way through the streets and shapes not only us but the place where we live, the communities we’re a part of and ultimately how we all live.
That was what resonated most on Monday night. So be it in Rosary Hall, the Stella cinema, in a morning group for parents to chat in their native language, across kitchen tables or on the streets of Harold’s Cross people are being brave and reaching out, forging new connections, exploring and soaring around the place, delving deep on what it means to be fully present here and now.
These projects, which all celebrate the vibrancy of the Harold’s Cross community, have been made in collaboration with Harold’s Cross Festival Committee, Harold’s Cross Ladies Club and Glór Mológa, with artists Eoin Mac Lochlainn, David Knox, Peter Varga, Eithne Ní Chatháin and Stephen James Smith in partnership with Dublin City Council’s public libraries, South East Area office, Arts Office and the National Gallery of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland as part of The National Neighbourhood.
The National Neighbourhood is a year-round programme that creates ways for people to see and make culture in their place with people they know. These new experiences, explorations and connections are the foundation for people to build creativity into their everyday lives.
The National Neighbourhood is made by Dublin City Council Culture Company in partnership with Dublin City Council (Dublin City Libraries, local area offices, Arts Office, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane) and National Cultural Institutions (Abbey Theatre, Chester Beatty, Irish Museum of Modern Art, National Archives, National Concert Hall, National Gallery of Ireland, National Library of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland).
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