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Project Arts Centre in Dublin

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The home of theatre, visual arts and dance in Dublin, the Project Arts Centre is the perfect place to go for a spot of alternative entertainment in the city. We meet its Artistic Director Cian O’Brien to find out more...


Project Arts Centre in Dublin

Now in his third year at the helm of the Project Arts Centre, Cian O’Brien talks about his favourite part of the job.

“In addition to us being a venue, we run a huge artist support programme”, he begins. “That’s the big interest for me. I love coming into work in the mornings – the fact that I get to work with artists every day is really exciting.”

The Project’s draw is that it’s multidisciplinary, and its theatre is often experimental. “When the Project was set up back in 1967, it was led by artists, so it’s still an artist collective technically”, Cian explains. “There is a board, but the membership of artists sits above that.”

Project alumni

Indeed, the Project has maintained great relationships with successful artists whose careers began in Dublin theatre in the 70s and 80s.

“We’ve regular attendees who are Project alumni”, says Cian. “The amazing Sheridan brothers (Jim and Peter) come in a lot, as well as actor Gabriel Byrne. It’s amazing to see that they’re still engaged with the programme and that they’re proud of the fact they started their career here.”


How has the Project developed since those early days? “In the last number of years, we’ve moved into contemporary art and performance”, he says. “So you’ll see something here that you won’t see in any other venue.”

Project Arts Centre in Dublin
Project Arts Centre in Dublin

A theatrical city

Would Cian consider Dublin a theatrical city? “Absolutely,” he says. “We have the first English language national theatre in the world with the Abbey, and we’ve an extraordinary theatrical tradition, which is embedded in this literary theatre world.”

Testament to that is the recent Fringe Theatre Festival. At the Project alone, there were 120 performances. “The audiences were huge,” Cian says. “So not only is there a theatre-going public, there’s so much work being made and it’s really grown. There are loads of young artists and companies who have stayed in Dublin and are taking advantage of the opportunities, around the economic downturn, to make work in new ways and spaces.”

Bridging the gap

He sees the role of the Project as bridging the gap between the mainstream and the experimental. He elaborates, “Production company This is Pop Baby are one of the exciting Project artists that we work with, and we’ll have the wonderful [drag queen and gay rights activist] Panti Bliss here in December with them. What they’ve done over the last five or six years is utilise the Dublin club scene, but also make it work on the Abbey stage.”

Project Arts Centre in Dublin