Five Lamps Arts Festival marks 10th anniversary

Dublin inner city event aims to showcase uniqueness of the area to residents and visitors

Some of the artists who will be taking part in various events during the Five Lamps Arts Festival which takes place March 30th to April 6th.Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Artists, musicians and community volunteers chatted and joked over coffee in Marino College of Further Education on North Strand, where the Five Lamps Arts Festival began 10 years ago. They were here at the invitation of artistic director Roisin Lonergan to talk about their contributions to this year's festival, which kicks off on Thursday and runs until April 6th with 43 events across 15 venues.

Named after the imposing Victorian structure standing at the junction of Amiens Street, North Strand, Seville Place and Portland Row in the heart of Dublin’s north inner city, this year’s festival comes at what could be seen as a pivotal moment for an area more often in the news for bad news than for good. Associated in the public mind with chronic drug abuse and ongoing violence between Dublin gangs, the north inner city is now waiting to see what action, if any, will arise from the recent Mulvey Report to the Government on addressing its social problems.


Veteran community activist Mick Rafferty, who produces and acts during the festival in Under Pressure, a play about the impact of drug dealing on local families, expresses scepticism borne of 35 years' experience. He points to two films by documentary-maker Sé Merry Doyle, depicting the inner city in 1982 and 1997, which are being screened, and which depict exactly the same sorts of problems still being discussed today.

But, as Lonergan points out, this is also a place with a strong tradition of community, a rich cultural heritage and the most ethnically diverse population in the country – all of which will be celebrated over the next week.


"There's always been amazing work going on in this area," says musician Sean Millar, who works with the local community choir and who, as Doctor Millar, will be performing in the concert finale in the Liberty Hall Theatre.

On Friday, the same venue plays host to Lisa Lambe, Fiachna Ó Braonáin and Martin Brunsden.

Aiming to “promote community development and social inclusion through the arts and to showcase the uniqueness of this geographic area to residents and to visitors”, the festival will feature exhibitions, concerts, plays and film screenings at venues across the area.

Counter-culture iconography

In recent years, the north inner city has become home to a range of studios and galleries, and tours of these are being run by Fire Station studios.

Locally-based artist Stephen Loughman has turned Marino College's basement into an atmospherically trippy exploration of counter-culture iconography, while North Wall photographer Dylan Joyce's exhibition at the Odeon cinema depicts young people from the docks.

There is also plenty of comedy, drama and workshops for children, and on Saturday, along the banks of the Royal Canal, there’ll be a Big Day Out with ferry rides and music at Charleville Mall.

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Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan is an Irish Times writer and Duty Editor. He also presents the weekly Inside Politics podcast