Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

The Grangegorman Squat

Alternative spaces are where interesting things happen.

Tue, Mar 24, 2015, 11:42

   

Dan Griffin has been reporting from the squat in Grangegorman, where a sudden attempted eviction took place yesterday. The squat has been through eviction attempts before. But this time, it seemed to draw a lot of heat, as well as press for a space in the city few talk about.

I believe that we should have proper squatters’ rights in this country. If a space is empty, and people secure it safely to live in it, then why not?

A squat is not just about living somewhere, it is about creating an alternative way of living by doing. There is huge power in showing what can be possible without rent rises and landlords and estate agents and letting agents and developers and the anonymous international buyers currently scoffing up Dublin land in NAMA deals.

This system of land ownership only exists to benefit those on the top rung of the market. You only have to look at who is positioned at the bottom of the pile to see where the ownership of land holds its priorities. In Ireland right now, we have a crisis of homelessness. We have a social housing crisis. We have a student housing crisis. We have a rental market crisis. Yet the biggest story about a house this year? A millionaire and his family getting turfed out of a mansion.

I’ve only been up to the squat in Grangegorman once, for an event that was the best thing I’ve been at in I don’t know how long. At Words In The Warehouse, people gathered to read poetry and play music. Although the air was cold, the crowd was warm. The spoken word was funny, brilliant, sad, personal, reactionary, bold, political, complex. The music was beautiful, eccentric, traditional, progressive. I went home with my heart, brain, and spirit full. It felt like something was really going on. It felt like energy.

 

What is happening in Grangegorman creatively is probably the truly most interesting thing happening in the city right now; the use of space, the philosophy of that use, the creative output, the types of gatherings, the vibe. I don’t know much about the wider living situation there, but I do know that when something interesting is happening it should be celebrated, not punished. But the powers that be are so terrified of anything alternative in this city. Post-boom, post-crash, a vanilla urban environment with conservative aspirations is being constructed and regulated around us, which is profoundly anti-creative and incredibly boring. Occasionally smart people with great ideas burst through and do interesting things, but very little enables them, and inevitably, the red tape entangles them. And god help you if you don’t have commercial aspirations! Everything is about the market. Everything is about capitalism. Everything is about consumerism. Everything is about money. Everything is about earning. Everything is about spending. Those are the markers of success! Yeah right. That worked out well last time, didn’t it?

Grangegorman is the opposite of all the bland stuff around us. It is vibrant. The complex is vast and beautiful. They really have hacked the city. But one of the most interesting things about the squat is that it is utterly rare. Right now, Ireland has another crisis – especially in the city. We have a crisis of cultural and creative space. Warehouses are being bought up by anonymous developers. Studios are shutting down. Collectives have to be transient, which is terrible, because it means ideas can’t take hold in a physical space. Yet amongst this dullness there are so many sparks. The DIY punk spaces. The queer film nights. The secret afterhours spots. These are our network of underground escape tunnels from the beigeness above.

I have no doubt that the squatters and their supporters will be depicted negatively by those whose imaginations are too small to see beyond a way of living that is drilled into them from a young age. There is nothing wrong with doing things differently. In fact, it’s where all the interesting things come from.

So, solidarity with squatters. We need to take back our city from the army of bores.

photo of banners by Dan Griffin, photo of squat garden by William Hederman.