Introduction

Culture is a universal and fundamental part of the human experience, and plays a central role in defining us as a society and as a City. Cultural expression takes many forms - such as music, dance, visual arts, sculpture, theatre and literature; all when used for the purpose of interpretive or cultural expression.

As the Capital City, Dublin leads the State in the wealth of cultural resources available to all, from major cultural institutions and globally recognised festivals, to local community spaces and events. As recognised in the Government policy document Culture 2025, participation in cultural activities can contribute to social cohesion, reduce isolation, improve our health and enrich all our lives.

Background and Context

Over the past number of years, Dublin City Council has made significant progress in improving and expanding range and depth of cultural activities available within the City. The Council plays a key role in supporting the Arts and a number of festivals are run and/ or supported by Dublin City Council every year. These events engage with a wide range of communities and play an important role in addressing social exclusion. Large scale events such as the New Year’s Festival, St. Patrick’s Festival and Culture Night attract thousands and have many communities participating. Alongside these are festivals like the Chinese New Year, Diwali and Pride, which give opportunity and expression to the many communities that make up the rich tapestry of the City. More culturally specific events such as Opera in the Open, Hard Work Class Heros (now Music Week) and Tradfest give all people in the City an opportunity to enjoy different cultural forms and to support artistic expression.

The investment by Dublin City Council and others in marking the Decade of Centenaries has brought new cultural assets and special events to the City including the opening of Richmond Barracks, the Dublin Festival of History, exhibitions, events in the Hugh Lane Gallery and across the library network (Dublin Remembers 1916) and development of new heritage trails.

The Council has started the process of developing a new flagship cultural and library resource at Parnell Square with the intent of growing this area as a new cultural hub for the City. Design work has been completed, planning permission achieved and work on bringing the first phase to construction is underway. Three new Arts Hubs have been delivered as part of the redevelopment and expansion of Coolock, Ballyfermot and Cabra libraries. Kilmainham Mills was recently acquired by Dublin City Council and will, when renovated, provide a new cultural and community resource space for the wider Dublin 8 community.

Key Issues

The impact of Covid-19 on our opportunities to engage and support cultural experiences and expression has been devastating for many. Most of our cultural spaces have had to shut their doors for large periods of time resulting in loss of income and expression for artists. There have also been significant negative spin off impacts to the economy and vibrancy of the City Centre. The crisis however, has also given new importance to our open air public spaces within the City for cultural and other purposes. The cultural spaces in public ownership within the City have renewed purpose and present opportunities to find new ways to engage, to create and to enjoy the arts in all its forms.

The City Centre with its many cultural spaces- from the national institutions such as the museums and galleries, to its range of cinemas, nightclubs, theatres and public arts is the most culturally rich urban area in the State. This cultural richness benefits us all and supports a wide range of other economic and social services. Hotels, shops, restaurants, taxis and many other services and jobs benefit from a rich cultural urban context and it is an essential component to a successful tourism industry. It makes Dublin a great place to live and visit and contributes significantly to the vitality of the City.

However, as is the experience in many expanding cities, increased pressure on our scarce urban land resource for housing, office, tourism and other development as well as rising land values can create pressures and demands for many cultural spaces. It is recognised however, that cultural spaces can make places attractive to live, work and visit and are essential to successful place making. They play an important role in creating attractive and sustainable communities as well as supporting and enhancing the primacy and vitality of a successful City Centre. Cultural attractions can also play a role in regeneration, can bring real benefits to existing communities and bring much needed investment to derelict buildings or sites as well as supporting local shops, cafés and restaurants.

It is vital to the future of the City as a living, vibrant city, that the spaces to hold all such cultural events are retained and enhanced across the City and that cultural experience is valued as a central part of our lives. The review of the City Development Plan provides an opportunity to reconsider what policies can be put in place to support existing cultural spaces and places; how we can bring new cultural spaces into newer developing areas of the City, and how opportunities for cultural production and experience can be increased for those areas and communities in the City where there are clear gaps.

The Development Plan provides an opportunity to explore whether there are sufficient cultural facilities to serve the needs of our City, what deficits exit and whether existing facilities are fit for purpose to meet the needs of this dynamic sector. Culture is what makes us who we are as humans. It is essential that we plan for it to be part of our built environment in the same way as we do for our water supply, our transport, our parks, and our built heritage.

Culture – Some Key Questions

1  What do you consider to be the most important spaces for culture for you in Dublin City?
2  How can Dublin City Council help support the development of new cultural spaces within the City?
3  What parts of the City do you think need further investment in arts and culture?
4  Can our libraries play a greater role in providing community arts and cultural spaces and in giving children the opportunities locally to take part in culturally enriching experiences?
5  How do we ensure equal access to all?
6  What can the Development Plan include that supports creative industry within the City?