Merrion Square artists sidelined for football fans

Painters to lose railings pitches next summer to facilitate Uefa festival

 

More than 100 artists who sell their work at Merrion Square each weekend will be banned from their traditional pitches next summer to accommodate Uefa Euro 2020 events.

The artists who pay €240 for annual casual trading licences from Dublin City Council for pitches along the railings outside the square have been told trading will be suspended for six weeks next June and July when the square will be turned into a “festival village” for football fans.

Four football matches will be held in the Aviva Stadium next summer, but the artists have been told the square will be required from early June to mid-July. The festival village will involve live match screenings, football activities and competitions, food and drink, music and entertainment as well as “artistic and cultural performances”.

However the regular artists, some of whom have been trading on the square for more than 35 years have been excluded.

Artist and secretary of the Merrion Square Artists’ Association Elizabeth Prendergast said the decision would be “catastrophic” for many artists.

Summer trading

“This will involve a complete loss of livelihood for six weeks of the summer months, which is the busiest time of the year. We are outdoors in all weathers winter and summer but hours of trading are restricted by light so June and July days are also our longest.”

Many of the 101 artists who trade on the square are dependent on the weekend sales which are particularly popular with tourists and Dubliners during the summer months.

“This will be a catastrophic loss for many of the artists. Some have told me they will have to go on the dole for those six weeks.”

Artists were informed of their exclusion from the square by letter attached to their annual licence renewal form and were given fewer than 10 days to respond, Ms Prendergast said. They have been offered a licence reduction of €60 by the council but have not been offered an alternative location, she said.

‘Commercial branding’

“The specific reason for the artists to vacate is to allow Dublin City Council to hang commercial branding on the exterior railings of the square, which is the location for which the artists hold their licence to exhibit.”

However, she said it was unlikely the football festival would be compatible with the art sales.

“The people who are going to these events won’t want to buy and the people who do want to buy won’t want to come in with these events on.”

Labour city councillor Dermot Lacey said he would be calling on the council to make an alternative venue available to the artists.

“I would be very supportive of the artists. I am always of the view that you can’t create new rights by displacing the rights of others. This is not acceptable and I will be fighting their case,” he said.

“I don’t believe it is beyond the wit of the council to find an alternative exhibition space for the artists. Maybe at the railings of the National Art Gallery or the Natural History Museum.”

The council said it is working to identify an alternative location for artists.