Ideas conference considers city of Dublin


“Great cities are places where people want to live with their families,” Dublin’s City Architect Ali Grehan told some 2000 people at the TEDxDublin event today.

While Dublin was a very dynamic city; a city should be about more than places to work, shop and spectacle and should be somewhere people want to bring up families, she said.

She was one of 15 people at the day of a talks on the theme of Dublin: A city of Ideas organised by The Science Gallery in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre.

There was a lack of opportunities for people to put down roots in the city centre, but the economic downturn had given a possible opportunity. She spoke of a project idea which would allow people to design their own city centre apartments , take ownership and have a “real choice” to raise their children in the city centre.

Speaking about the legacies of past development was actor Serena Brabazon, one of the people behind the Nama to Nature initiative to plant trees in ghost etates.

Ghost estates were “monuments to short-sightedness and greed” she said asking what were the legacies we at a country choose to leave behind.

The group’s first tree planting in March at an unfinished development in Leitrim allowed the group to show their disgust and offer a powerful symbol of healing and regeneration, she said. The positive reaction showed that they had “touched a nerve”, she said.

We choose our legacies and “unless someone like you cares an awful, lot nothing is going to get better” she said.

Former Dubliner publisher Trevor White wanted to rebrand Dublin the friendliest city in the world, cities were happier, more prosperous places when their character was defined, such as the big apple New York and the cradle of civilisation in ancient Athens.

Over 90 per cent of tourists cited friendly people as the highlight of their visit to Dublin, with everybody seeing this in the city “except us”, said White who set up the City of a Thousand Welcomes initiative for tourists.

White spoke of the importance of civic pride for Dublin’s future, citing a study which showed a link between a city having citizens with civic pride and prosperity.

“Every day I see the power of civic engagement” he said retelling how showing a photo of the Theatre Royal to a tour of the Little Museum of Dublin (which he set up) lead to a grandmother telling a group of strangers of her first kiss on the theatre’s back row.

He urged everyone tickle someone’s mind” in order to increase the city’s social capital and help to restore the dying economy.

“This dirty old town may yet take its place among the great small cities of the world”, he said.

Tickling minds was comedian Maeve Higgins who brought the crowd through a virtual tour of the Wicklow street area where she has her office. The tour went from the “paradise birds” at the Brown Thomas Mac Make-up counter to the “handsomest man in Dublin” working in one of the street’s bistros. She spoke of the Beggar outside the “fanciest grocers in the city” Fallon and Byrne with whom she regularly chats and laughs at Dublin Bike novices not realising they can adjust seats on bikes.

“All I've experienced on Wicklow Street is life,” she said.