Darren Shan: My favourite place in Limerick is Donkey Ford’s fish and chip shop

The fantasy writer on how his city has come a long way

Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons....Author Darren Shan photographed at his home in Limerick.

Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons....Author Darren Shan photographed at his home in Limerick.

Mon, Feb 3, 2014, 01:00

I was born in London, but came to live in Pallaskenry near Limerick city when I was six, and I’ve lived here ever since.*

Limerick has changed hugely in the 35 years I’ve been going there. It used to be a much rougher city. It felt like an old city when I was a child; a city that had been around a long time and was a bit tired.

It’s come a long, long way in the last few years. The city centre is in a bit of transition at the moment. Before the crash, there were plans for an opera house. It’d be nice to see a really good theatre, or some kind of a cultural hub that would be a statement building in the city centre. It’d be somewhere for people to come in large numbers; a focal point to draw people, and for cultural events to happen. There are lots of little cultural places scattered around, but no main big one.

O’Connell Street is the place where everything happens. It’s the main artery of the city. When I think of Limerick, I think of O’Connell Street. There are a whole load of buildings on O’Connell street shut down at the moment. It has a hurt look. The buildings boarded up do give it a rough look and it’s not a good image for a city. At the moment, it’s looking a bit rough around the edges, but it is still a good place.

People tend to go more to the malls at the moment instead of into the centre to shop. It would be good to see more shops opening in the city centre. Everyone knows that the centre of the city needs regeneration – the Milk Market shows how it can be done, and is a beacon for the way forward.

One of the things we haven’t done particularly well as a city is make use of our riverside spaces. I love the recent changes that have been made to the quays - Bishops Quay and Harvey’s Quay - though I haven’t yet had a chance to explore them much.

UL is a stunning campus, developing all the time, and I’m excited by the forthcoming planned spillover into the city centre. I think it will make the university an even more important part of the city’s identity.

The 1980s were a very hard time for Limerick. There was a time when the negative publicity was justified, but there has been a lot of work done in the last 10 years. Usually it’s from people who don’t come to Limerick or haven’t spent much time there.

It takes a long time to change the perception about places when a city gets a reputation. But cities do change and if the centre changes and redevelops, perceptions will change too.

My favourite place in Limerick? Well, one of my favourite places to go is Donkey Ford’s; a fish and chip shop that’s cheap and cheerful. I’ve had a lot of good feeds there.

Darren Shan is a writer of horror and fantasy books.

* This article was amended on Monday February 3rd.

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