Paddy Cahill obituary: Filmmaker and passionate advocate of city cycling

Cahill made visually striking documentaries and was widely travelled

Paddy Cahill

Paddy Cahill

 

Paddy Cahill
Birth: April 21th, 1977
Death: April 9th, 2021

Paddy Cahill, the talented Irish filmmaker and passionate advocate of city cycling, has died following a long illness. Cahill made visually striking documentaries on architecture, art and city cycling. A great listener with a keen eye for quirky visual detail, his work was fresh and original, encompassing aspects of urban life and creative output that might otherwise have gone undocumented.

His documentary Sean Hillen, Merging Views won best short documentary at Galway Film Fleadh in 2016 and his feature-length documentary on performance artist Amanda Coogan premiered at the Irish Film Institute during the Dublin International Film Festival in 2017.

Sunniva O’Flynn from the Irish Film Institute said “he explored the city as a place in which people live, work and play and he created a body of work that is as warm and whimsical as it is authoritative and meticulously researched.”

Cahill was a member of the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland, the Irish Architectural Archive, the Architectural Association of Ireland, Visual Artists Ireland and DoCoMoMo Ireland, a conservation group focusing on Irish modernist buildings.

Paddy Cahill grew up in Clonmoney, near Shannon, County Clare, the youngest of three children of Tony Cahill, lecturer in computer science and painter, Catriona O’Connor

His work documenting Irish architecture started with a film on Liberty Hall, shown on RTÉ Television in May 2009. He became interested in the building in 2006 when its owners’, the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union, announced plans to demolish it and replace it with a taller structure. Cahill gave tours of the building during Open House Dublin and campaigned to save what was Dublin’s first skyscraper and one of Ireland’s prime examples of the International Modernism architectural style. In 2012, An Bord Pleanála ruled unanimously that the new building would be “unacceptably dominant” in the city and the current building remains.

Cahill also made a film about Dublin Corporation [now Dublin City Council] architect Herbert Simms who designed the city’s social housing and public realm in 1930s and 1940s. The film, HerbertSimmsCity (2019), captures the elegance of Simm’s modernist buildings and urban infrastructure much of which remains to this day. He also made films about pivotal Irish buildings with architectural critic Shane O’Toole. These include Dreaming Squares about the Carrolls cigarette factory in Dundalk [now part of Dundalk Institute of Technology] with a rare interview with its architect, the late Ronnie Tallon, and Commonspace about the Dundanion Court, a modernist housing scheme in Blackrock, Cork city, designed by architect Neil Hegarty. This short documentary was screened at the 14th International Architectural and Urban Films Festival in Istanbul in December 2020.

A keen cyclist, Cahill made a series of almost 20 films, celebrating the social side of city cycling in Dublin, Belfast and Amsterdam between 2012 and 2014. Together with Dutch blogger and cycling enthusaist Philip De Roos, Cahill interviewed historians, artists, city officials about why they enjoyed cycling, uploading monthly videos to cyclingwith.com.

Cahill shot the videos from a specially built front carrier on his bike which he sat on while De Roos cycled close to the interviewees as they cycled through the city. In an interview with The Irish Times in 2013, Cahill said: “We are really interested in people’s stories. There is something about cycling that promotes a gentle pace to the conversation. The city becomes another character which in turn affects the conversation.”

Paddy Cahill filming
Paddy Cahill filming

A longtime member of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, Cahill with De Roos also made a promotional video for that organisation which got members to deliver their message when cycling in a group. It won first place at the 2011 Better Together video awards run by The Wheel, Ireland’s association of community and voluntary organisations.

In a tribute to Cahill on the RTÉ Culture website, architectural historian Emma Gilleece writes: “Paddy was a true champion of the underdog, challenging our perceptions with a beautiful gentleness that yet pulsed with his passion for the endurance of these buildings and their stories. He had the knack of eliciting candour from people in front of the camera, as if he were a life-long friend.”

Cahill collaborations with performance artist Amanda Coogan began with Hands On, the weekly TV programme for the Irish Deaf community. Coogan and Cahill also worked together on other projects including Long Now, a one-hour documentary on Coogan’s six-week long live exhibition in Dublin’s RHA Gallery in 2015. The exhibition, which saw Coogan perform for six hours a day, five days a week for the entire run, became the gallery’s most successful and visited show. And Cahill spent almost as much time in the gallery as Coogan, filming her. In his director’s notes before the screening of the film at the Irish Film Institute, Cahill wrote, “the pace and the essence of this film – duration – challenges the world we live in, as we all struggle to cope with relentless connectivity across multiple devices.”

In January 2021, Cahill made a film about the landmark Hendrons Building in Dublin’s Broadstone. A co-living development scheme for this 1940s industrial building was refused by An Bord Pleanála in April 2021.

Paddy Cahill grew up in Clonmoney, near Shannon, County Clare, the youngest of three children of Tony Cahill, lecturer in computer science and painter, Catriona O’Connor. Following his secondary school, he did a PLC course in film in Cork. He then studied film and television production at the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology in Galway from 2003-2006, moving to the National Film School at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dún Laoghaire for his final year.

Widely travelled, he worked in bars and restaurants in San Francisco, Prague and Copenhagan, taking long trips by boat, train and bicycle throughout Europe. Unconventional and unassuming by disposition, he was a committed vegan who loved living in Dublin city centre: he wanted cities to be beautiful, safe places for residents of all ages, backgrounds and income levels. He married his long-term partner, Jonia Ozarowska, shortly before he died.

Cahill’s last journey to Glasnevin Cemetery was a fitting tribute to his lifelong passion for cycling and the city. In accordance with his dying wishes, his brother, Conor led a bicycle cortege through the streets of Dublin, carrying Paddy’s coffin on a trailer behind his bicycle.

Paddy Cahill is survived by his wife Jonia, his parents Tony and Catriona, and his siblings Conor and Pamela.