News, Stories | 13 January 2021

Creating a Virtual Village with The National Neighbourhood

Virtual Village artwork

Virtual Village artwork

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Since May 2020, The National Neighbourhood has been bringing people together from across the city, through a series of 12-week online projects with our cultural partners and artists - exploring all that the city has to offer, and keeping us connected through culture and conversation.

The project features weekly discovery sessions and conversations, focusing on everything from history and heritage, to visual art, music, theatre, performance and more - all via Zoom.

If you think you’d like to get involved, we’re beginning the next edition on The National Neighbourhood on 10 February. Find out more here.

Below, artist Claire Halpin, who worked with our most recent group, recounts her experience of connecting and collaborating through The National Neighbourhood.


I had previously been engaged in two National Neighbourhood projects so I was delighted to be invited to work with an online round of The National Neighbourhood. Delighted, if somewhat apprehensive, as we all moved to the online Zoom platform. What was my role as artist to be as we remotely visited different cultural institutions over 12 weeks? Ruth Concannon was our very able host - putting all at their ease as we muted and unmuted, speakered and gallery viewed, chatted and gave virtual high fives and soundless claps!

As a friend observed – if you were meeting a group every week visiting different museums, galleries and institutions around Dublin, as you met you would be doing introductions, talking about the weather, talking about how you got there, where you had come from, and generally having the incidental chats as you moved everyone along inside, telling the stragglers and chatters to keep up!

So how was the forming, storming, and norming of a group going to work via Zoom?

Taking a journey

Our first virtual visit was to the social history museum, 14 Henrietta Street. Having brought my 89-year-old Mam to this building earlier this year and witnessed and experienced the emotion and connection that a tour of this museum can prompt and evoke, I was again apprehensive about how this would relay online with a newly formed group who did not know each other.

With the gentle guidance/engagement of our guide Sheila Robinson – we all leaned in, eased back and engaged. I need not have worried. We were off on our journey! We had 12 weekly visits to different cultural institutions and explored through conversation, our own connections, personal archives narratives and connections with our national history and culture. Each of the museums and institutions, through their varying forms of presentations and remote visits, were open and generous with their time, knowledge and guidance.

And no - it was not all easy conversation, and so it should not have been. The very concept of accessing culture and our heritage and the very cultural institutions which we were visiting virtually became inadvertently the focus of our conversation with the National Concert Hall (with Nigel Flegg and Andrew Synnott) and our presentation on the oral history of Moore Street (with Gillian Ryan). We talked about the importance of culture, history and heritage. We considered representation and presentation, and thought about who gets to decide whose voice, whose story, whose history, whose culture is recorded, archived, presented, and represented by our national cultural institutions.

We talked about the validity and importance of broaching these topics and having these conversations around cultural representation and social inclusion.

Finding sacred places

My role as an artist on the project became more apparent and clear to me as the weeks galloped along. I saw how I could link together the diverse conversations and observations and reflect these themes and ideas back to the group. And so the themes emerged – the idea of an archive within us, the sacred places of history and personal narrative. Through the artist facilitated sessions, I invited the group to bring along objects that they thought could potentially belong in a collection, museum or archive. We discussed the object, wrote some words and made connections between the artefacts and the stories as to why these personal objects were now potential artefacts.

As an artistic response to the project - I created what I am calling a collaborative model for an artwork, that brings together some of the themes and conversations that we as a group had together. It’s called The Virtual Village (working title).

The piece is made from paper, glass, magnets, a John Rocque 1760 map of Dublin, and interprets a virtual village as a local, intimate space with no limitations. The artwork has the potential to be developed into a more collaborative artwork with the group, and we’re excited to see where it might take us.

If you'd like to get involved with the next round of The National Neighbourhood, you can find more details here.


Claire Halpin is a Dublin born and based artist, curator and arts educator. She has exhibited widely in group exhibitions in Ireland and internationally. Claire is represented by Olivier Cornet Gallery, Dublin with solo exhibitions Raw War (2019) and Glomar Response (2016). Her paintings are included in many private, public and corporate collections in Ireland and abroad.

Claire’s multidisciplinary practice has afforded her a broad range of experience across many areas, projects and collaborations since 2000. She has had the opportunity to work with a range of groups across many ages from primary school children through to second and third level students, youth, families, teachers, community groups, intellectual disability groups and older people.