As the year draws to a close, our CEO, Iseult Byrne, reflects on an unusual year.
Culture and connections
The end of a year always lends itself to reflection, and this seems especially apt in 2020. I’m glad to recall some highlights of our work this year, carried out under extraordinary circumstances.
In January, we were delighted to welcome representatives from seven European capital cities from the URBACT ACCESS Action Planning Network to Dublin. Representing Dublin as the eighth city in the network, we share the belief that culture plays an important role in finding solutions to the complex issues of today's cities.
In March, the world changed and so did we. Along with culture, connection, and conversation, Covid-19 became a word we frequently used.
The team worked quickly to bring a number of our programmes online. Culture Club, a series of hosted talks and tours that introduce and encourage people to connect with the cultural spaces of the city, went virtual. The National Neighbourhood began to bring people together, through a series of 12-week creative encounters with several of our cultural partners across the city. Exploration became a theme and it was a joy to see participants from programmes such as these, and our Culture Connects activities and workshops, continue their own cultural journeys supported by the many artists we worked with this year.
We started working at Richmond Barracks in January and are excited to move forward in 2021 with our plans to co-locate cultural exploration opportunities and make more local connections as soon as we can re-open. We even welcomed some new residents to the garden with our two bee hives!
The Our City Our Books website went live this year, and is hosting lively online bookclubs as well as gathering book recommendations from city residents.
Along with our partners in Dublin City Libraries, we launched a new Creative Residency programme, the Children’s Historian in Residence. The first Creative Residency, in partnership with King’s Inns, was completed this year too and saw visual artist Jesse Jones create a final artwork that explores the law and its role in society.
When government restrictions allowed, and with updated health and safety protocols in place, we reopened the doors at 14 Henrietta Street and Richmond Barracks and continued to explore the history of the city with our wonderful tour guides. We also brought talks online to share the stories beyond the walls of the buildings. And we will continue to do this in 2021. Thank you for all those who are connecting and engaging with us in this way.
We met with international colleagues online at the 2020 Rome Charter by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) to discuss the development of sustainable cities and communities through culture, and how through the work of the Culture Company we have seen cultural empowerment occur through our programmes. We also presented the work of the team in relation to oral histories and local stories at 14 Henrietta Street as a best practice example at the Eurocities conference, Cultural Heritage in Action .
In November, we officially launched Dublin City Cultural Audit and Culture Near You. Together, they are an internal dataset in Dublin City Council and an online map for the public that highlights where culture happens and the people who make it happen in Dublin. The first project of its kind in the country, Culture Near You will not only help residents but the Cultural Audit will inform city planners and ensure cultural assets are an integral consideration of the Dublin City Development Plan, and lots of other decision making.
Participants from a number of our programmes this year went on to take part in Dublin City Council’s Winter Lights. In partnership with artists we commissioned, four of these groups created artworks that are lighting up locations in the heart of the city throughout December. The feedback we received from participants serves as a reminder of the significance of culture in all of our lives.
It was invigorating, enlivening and positive in darkened times of isolation. Partcipant, Winter Lights
I would like to thank the Board of Directors of Dublin City Council Culture Company for their continued support and hard work through this period. The Board of Directors are Siobhán Bourke (Producer and Founder / Co-Director Irish Theatre Institute), Tim Carey (Author and Principal Officer Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government), Councillor Vincent Jackson (Independent Councillor for Ballyfermot-Drimnagh), Rhona O’Brien (General Counsel and Company Secretary Aryzta), Councillor Cat O'Driscoll (Social Democrat for Cabra Glasnevin Local Area, & Chair of Culture Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) for Dublin City Council), Richard Shakespeare (Assistant Chief Executive, Planning and Property Development Dublin City Council) and Brendan Teeling (Deputy City Librarian, Dublin City Public Libraries) and the great work of our finance committee chaired by Tom Dunne (Group Financial Controller at The Rehab Group) have worked tirelessly to support myself and the team in our continued work and ongoing plans.
I am very proud of how the team worked together to ensure that access to culture - so vital in connecting us to our communities - was still possible amidst the difficult circumstances this year presented. So thank you to the team for all their efforts to continue to adjust, succeed and deliver and to our many partners, and all of the participants we collaborated with this year. Thank you. Here is hoping for more togetherness in 2021.
CEO, Dublin City Council Culture Company