No longer a waste of space as group aims to create parks and recreation around city
A Dublin collective is getting ready to open its first pop-up park on a derelict site
The Granby Park project site at Dominick Street, Dublin. Photographs: Brenda Fitzsimons
The Granby Park project on Dominick Street with Aaron Copeland Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Richard Harris and Samuel Bishop.
I am standing on some waste ground on Lower Dominick Street with Sam Bishop and Aaron Copeland from the Upstart Collective. They are helping me to envision the pop-up park that will be here in six weeks.
Granby Park will have pallets on the ground, cafes, edible plants, art installations, a woodland walk, poly-tunnels, bike- racks and an amphitheatre. Knitters will even help “yarn-bomb” the ugly railings with colourful wool coverings.
Now, however, the grass is patchy. There’s rubble. One side looks out on American- style grafitti, the other, some particularly noisy roadworks.
There is an episode of the US sitcom Parks and Recreation, which features a similar attempt to transform a derelict space. “We want to dink things up,” says Copeland and grins.
Upstart are all about “interventions in public spaces”. They first came to notice during the last general election when they hung art-pieces on lamp posts across the city – these included legends like: “Only Batman Can Save Us Now”. “There was a loophole in the law which said you could hang anything if it referenced the election,” says Copeland, a secondary school teacher.
Upstart has been working on Granby Park, a much more ambitious project, for two years. It has been given the go-ahead by Dublin City Council, is collaborating with diverse businesses, individuals and community groups and has been recipients of a grant from the Wheel (a network for the community and voluntary sector).
It is currently looking for an additional €20,000 via the crowd- sourcing website Fundit (fundit.ie/project/upstart-granby-park).
Bishop, who trained as an architect and organises community-minded street party events called Street Feasts, calls the derelict site “a meanwhile space”.
“These spaces are kind of inevitable in cities,” he says. “We are trying to create a model for using them, a toolkit that’s shareable, where communities or individuals or someone working for the council can say we have loads of empty spaces.
“I’d like to animate them and Upstart has this document that shows exactly how to do it. They can learn from us the pitfalls and the opportunities and hopefully this will spawn multiple other projects.”
There now seems to be increasing attempts to reclaim public space in Dublin.
“[In the boom] these ‘meanwhile spaces’ were always seen as aspirational spaces as opposed to vacant spaces,” says Copeland. “With a space like this in the city centre, no one would have been willing to give it to a project like this because there was a profit to be made from it down the line.