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Reclaim the City

The pop-ups that are making temporary space have a lasting impact on the culture of Dublin.

The phrase ‘pop-up’ is frequently bandied about in cities these days and has become synonymous with 21st century urban life. With some of the world’s biggest brands pumping money into ideas for the temporary use of forgotten spaces, it’s easy to become distracted from the fact that the nature of the pop-up lends itself to worthy initiatives with goals that extend beyond finding a felt moustache sticker for your fixie. Dublin’s latest pop-up projects are reclaiming that DIY spirit, hacking the city’s underused spaces for enticing new projects.

Ambitious both in terms of physical scale and its vision for social impact, the Granby Park project built a temporary creative oasis rejuvenating a site that has been derelict for the last few years after a public-private development partnership failed following the crash, transforming an empty lot into an artistic playground. The park has been a roaring success, with over 12,000 people passing through the gates on a particularly busy day. Its amphitheatre has hosted packed-out outdoor screenings, day-time discos, late-night gigs and readings from the most promising young Irish writers. A café, trade school and plenty of installations keep the space abuzz every day. The park may be wrapping up soon, but Upstart, the crew behind the park’s regeneration, will no doubt be planning something special again.

Dublin City Festivals Granby Park

Coinciding with Granby Park’s run, a smaller-scale initiative with a related vision is happening south of the river. ‘Making Space @’ is a pop-up residency for artists that takes illustrators and designers out of the studio and places them squarely in a public place to make work. The unwashed masses are free to meddle in their business for the week of the residency, peering over shoulders, making helpful observations, upsetting their coffees onto their doodles, and ultimately (hopefully) buying some of their prints.

It’s an initiative that makes good use of what would otherwise be an empty space, injecting energy into the practice of the artist by detaching them from the studio, while opening up the creative process to the public. Organiser Orlaith Ross say the city “is bursting with creativity and there has definitely been an increase in the amount great things happening in Dublin from pop-up shops, creative use of disused spaces and designers and artists working with businesses to make Dublin city a better place.” Ross also hosts experimental music nights in Christchurch, lending the historical venue a whole new lease of life.

Dublin city Festivals Granby Park on Dominick Street

The cult of the pop-up is also serving Ireland’s strong craft heritage. The Royal Hibernian Academy’s Irish Design Shop is hosting a series of pop-up shops for a number of Irish designers and makers over the coming months. The producers receive a temporary but known space to sell their work, a practice that promotes small-scale, local production and helps to grow the quality and diversity of this burgeoning Irish industry.

And then there’s Temple Bar’s Library Project, a spin-off from the internationally-acclaimed PhotoIreland festival, which has turned Black Church Print Studio into a public library of photobooks, magazines and zines from all over the world which showcases Irish publishing, photography and design amongst such luminaries as Eric Kessler and Ryan McGinley. There are prints and magazines on sale, with all the profit going towards making the Library Project a more permanent fixture.

Rachel Donnelly