. . . on spreading good news
The Fair Play Café in Ringsend, Dublin is one of those places a bit off the beaten track but well worth a diversion if you find yourself in the area and in need of sustenance, physical or spiritual. It’s situated on that stretch of road facing the busy East Link toll bridge in a small church building called The Anchorage. I spent many happy evenings there as a child at what was called the Tuesday Night Meeting, raising the rafters with bible songs such as The Animals They Went In by Twosie Twosies and Daniel In The Lion’s Den. The Tuesday Night Meetings are still going strong, but there’s a lot more happening at this old Methodist mission hall these days.
The Anchorage is a good news story. Bequeathed to the local community by the Bewley family, 12 years ago it looked likely to close down. That would have happened if it wasn’t for Joe Donnelly, who runs The Anchorage now. The former altar boy used to vandalise the place as a teenager. It was a way to vent the resentment against a religion different to the one in which he was raised. He was drinking cans and causing trouble with his mates in the back garden of the hall around the time I was belting out classics such as Zacchaeus Was a Very Little Man. Things change and people change.
These days Joe’s wife Sharon runs a playgroup on the premises while he manages the cafe and a garden centre, with profits going to third world projects. More than €100,000 has been raised by the community for various projects in the past 10 years. Joe has a Masters degree in, of all things, Hope, and it’s this passion for hopefulness that led him to contact me about an initiative he wants to start.
There is a large wall at the back of The Fair Play Café which is freshly painted and empty except for a single copy of the front page of local community newspaper News 4. It happens to be the paper where I got my start nearly 20 years ago.
News 4, run as a community employment scheme, has always been an unapologetically “good news” publication. Flick through the latest edition and you’ll find dozens of small stories to warm the heart: news about the Arctic Terns in Dublin bay, a story about the new commemorative benches at the Poolbeg lighthouse and an article about a 40ft knitted ‘flood wall’ art installation made by residents of Dodder View Cottages.
News 4 is on the wall to remind Joe about his idea to fill this empty space in the cafe with good news from the front pages of Irish newspapers. This week he is writing to editors of newspapers across the country asking them to support the idea.
“I want to do something that will help the local community appreciate that while we may be in a very difficult place at the moment, it’s important to remember that our recent history is full of good news stories and there is every reason to expect that there will be more good news in the days, months and years ahead,” he says. “I really think it could provide a profound statement to our society and a great boost to the community here.”
It might be going too far to say there’s a Good News Movement, but there are other signs people are finding ways to fight back against the constant drip feed of negativity. The Champion is a good news paper started by the young people of the north east inner city of Dublin. The teenagers in Lourdes Youth and Community Services in Sean McDermott Street were sick of hearing bad news about young people in the area and decide to collect good news stories about themselves in a newspaper.
The cheerful twitter account @GoodNewsIreland exists just to tweet good news. Here you’ll read about cardboard bicycles and a book called Silver Threads of Hope and snowy owls in Dublin Zoo and how chocolate can be as good for you as exercise and, naturally, Katie Taylor.
Speaking of Katie Taylor, recent Google statistics show more people searched for news about our dismal Euro 2012 performance than looked for information on Taylor’s Olympic Gold. And it’s true that bad news generally gets the biggest number of clicks on the Irish Times website. But can good news go viral? Can it slay the lion in the den of endless bad news? Joe, for one, reckons it’s worth a try.
For more information on the Good News Wall phone Joe Donnelly on 086-061 2127