In Conversation with Dublin’s Culture Connect’s Iseult Byrne

Ensconced in the heart of Dublin city, a whiff of vanilla scenting the air,14 Henrietta Street chronicles the tale of time. Leading us from a Georgian townhouse to Tenement dwellings, the villa tells us the story of those who lived there. It was in this antique establishment Babylon Radio had the pleasure of engaging with Iseult Byrne – Director of Dublin’s Culture Connects on the organisation’s philosophy, agenda and events.

Tell us more about Dublin’s Culture Connects in terms of how it was conceived? 
Dublin’s Culture Connects started somewhere in late 2015, early 2016. The idea was to try and work in an experimental way to try some new things. It was a very simple idea, to work within the city- geographically- and with as many people as we can- to connect people to what’s in the city. We do that by making cultural projects.

How does Dublin’s Cultural Connects endeavour to bring people together? What modes and methods do you use? 
We go out and talk to people. We ask them about how they feel about where they live, how they are connected to their communities, and then its about working with artists to kind of inspire and connect. We’ve noticed that many times people want to connect through conversation- and sometimes people need the space for conversations. So just as the basic development of a child requires artistic expression in a very basic way through role-playing, or they automatically start dancing or singing- so it’s about using that as a bonding factor. We do not see culture and art as separate from people’s existence and believe that it is very much a part of an individual’s daily life- everyone watches television or listens to music. We basically do what everyone is already doing, but add an extra bit of inspiration by bringing them to a place, they have not been before in the city that they live or connecting them to a musician or a visual artist or somebody they haven’t met before to look at an issue they’ve not explored earlier.

Could you share with us a specific incident where people came together to produce a work of art or a form of cultural expression?
For example, we were working with a group of scouts and they wanted to engage in a project about the environment. So, they had decided to do a litter-pick in the local beach, but they decided to make instruments with the litter that they picked. We then worked with some musicians and then they composed a song about the importance of saving the environment and being respectful of the birds and the fish. These were songs composed by professional musicians to help the scouts spread the message. A single even brought together musicians, songs and artwork to spread a message about the environment. Their initial idea was to spread a message about the environment but they weren’t aware that they could write a song about it as well. So, this is how we bring people together and ignite and inspire them.

Would it be safe to say that Dublin’s Culture Connects serves as a platform for artists to share their talents with the world?
Maybe and maybe not. The question is, a platform for what? The main agenda is to connect people to the city, which sometimes even locals feel disconnected with. We always have and always will work with artists but our aim is to bring people together by culture and through culture. It is more about individuals forming a personal connection with the art or music that they are being introduced to. More than the artist gaining primacy over the people, we ensure that people are brought together using art as a medium. Yes, in this way there may be a lot of work for the artist in terms of learning more about their artwork, but ultimately the platform is created not by the artist alone- it is a collective effort by the artist and by the people. It is shared work.

Would you like to tell us more about these shared, collectivist efforts by sharing a story with us?
A women’s group in Fariview which contributed to a willow structure that has been planted in the park. It is a woven willow which means that it is planted in a row but they shaped it working with Willow Weavers and an architect. The women planted it and we are weaving it on a regular basis for many months. So, it is their’ s and also the park’s. It is about that sharing. It is about a community of ownership.

Is there an effort to bring in cultural facets that go beyond the bounds of Ireland and Europe as well?
Definitely! We believe in bringing together everybody everywhere and everything. I know those are big words- but that’s where our true endeavour lies. The area that we work in- the Dublin City Council- it records 185 spoken languages which represents 182 nationalities. That is the immediate geography of our project- which represents thousands and thousands of people. It is therefore a huge geography of people we endeavour to represent from different religions to nationalities and languages. There is no ne version of Dublin- so we work on projects that are relevant to everyone. We try to connect with all kinds of people doing all kinds of things. One of our endeavours is to bring people to cultural venues that they probably have not been to before, or have visited and didn’t know that there was something of relevance to them- like a stamp collection or something about their religion or heritage. It doesn’t matter what it is- but we try and bring people to a whole array of things that makes them feel more personally connected to the city they are in- whether they’ve lived here for generations or are new here!

Sambhavi Sudhakar
Sambhavi Sudhakar

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