Dublin is the capital city of Ireland and home to almost 30% of the national population.
Since the 1990s, it has undergone population growth, both in number and ethnic diversity, has faced economic challenges and has modernised. Its culture remains its people, their stories and experiences. Dublin, with four local authorities, accounts for 44% of the national urban population: 1.39m in Greater Dublin and 554,554 under Dublin City Council. Dublin is home to 20.1% immigrants speaking 182 languages.
Since 2012, following the global economic crisis, Ireland’s dramatic recovery and growth had significantly reduced unemployment levels to around 5%, before the pandemic. Despite this increase in employment, 43% of households remained at risk of poverty. (This was, and continues to be, further compounded by increasing rent prices and levels of homelessness.) Covid-19 has presented additional challenges to the city and heightened some of the inequalities that exist.
Current cultural policy structure and goals
In the ACCESS Culture for All network, Dublin city is represented by Dublin City Council Culture Company.
The Culture Company envisions a Dublin where culture connects everyone and everything. We have identified five strategic goals to engage, experiment, learn, share, and embed culture and their full ambition is outlined in the Dublin City Council Culture Company 2019 – 2024 Strategy.
An independent company formed by Dublin City Council in March 2018, we run cultural initiatives and buildings across the city with, and for, the people of Dublin. We collaborate with communities, cultural organisations, businesses, and Dublin City Council to embed cultural experiences and increase cultural participation throughout Dublin.
Our ‘people first’ methodology underpins the development and delivery of all our programmes. The people of Dublin, their voice and their stories remain at the centre of all that we do.
Whether we are creating cultural projects and programmes like The National Neighbourhood, Culture Club, or intelligence projects like the Cultural Audit and Map or running an award-winning museum like 14 Henrietta Street, we aim to put the communities of Dublin at the heart of the cultural experience of the city.
Obstacles/challenges for inclusive cultural sector
Engagement with the people of Dublin is at the centre of everything we do . We have year-round conversations with groups of people across the city about their thoughts and ideas on our city and culture (Tea & Chats). These conversations are the foundation of our work. This ongoing consultation process informs the development of our cultural programmes and projects, guides our work and ensures that the people of Dublin remain at the centre of all that we do.
Through this process we gain valuable insights. Some recurring themes and challenges that have emerged through these conversations include a desire for the public to understand better how the local authority operates and decisions about culture are made, a lack of cultural infrastructure or access to cultural spaces in local neighbourhoods, communities feel excluded or overlooked by existing cultural provision in the city, and people regularly speak of hidden barriers to accessing cultural activities in their daily lives.
A major challenge we face is how to connect with ‘hard to reach’ communities. This includes people aged between 19-54, those in full-time employment and/or working outside of traditional working hours in the evenings or weekends who choose to engage in cultural activities under their own terms.
The pandemic has further highlighted the challenges faced by modern cities. In Dublin, it has brought new attention to people’s local environment, infrastructure, and the value of being able to access cultural spaces and activities close to home or remotely. We recognise that support for local communities to continue to activate these spaces creatively is necessary.
What is your goal with ACCESS?
We are currently focused on how we can continue to evolve our work to give more people more choice to do more cultural things in their city. Through ACCESS, we are experimenting with new ways of reaching more people, hearing more stories, and creating more innovative cultural choices and opportunities across the city.
In the wake of the pandemic, we’re investigating how we continue to adapt but remain true to the core values of the company – participation, partnership, relevance, capacity building and quality.
Working with, for, and through the people of Dublin, we want to unearth the hidden culture that exists within our city. We will harness the personal testimonies and insights we hear to influence policy, and ultimately create a stronger cultural infrastructure.
Dublin URBACT Local Group
In Dublin, the URBACT Local Group (ULG) have been meeting online regularly, with 6 meetings since October 2020. The group includes artists, community leaders, project participants, historians, architects, performers, writers, curators, cultural sector professionals, and citizens. A highly engaged and vibrant group, they bring a wealth of diverse knowledge and experience, alongside a passion for their city.
This core group is supported with additional input from team members within the wider company, social and civic organisations and groups, Dublin City Council staff, senior management groups, and local area offices.
The Dublin Integrated Action Plan (IAP) is being developed at each stage of the local group’s progress. It will incorporate the learnings gathered from small scale actions and translate them into actions for meaningful cultural change.