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Dublin 8’s South West Side – The City’s New Bohemian Quarter

Francis Street Graffetti Park

Bohemian, the term is used synonymously with risqué cultural expressions, avant-garde galleries and cafes, the undercurrent and perhaps reaction to, mainstream culture.  The term is seldom used derisively and often seen as a positive, to be Bohemian is to be daring!  The strict definition of the term is to be socially unconventional and when it comes to our own Dublin 8, it certainly is socially unconventional. 

Within a relatively small area encompassing the Royal Hospital to Newmarket Square there is amazing array of both established mainstream and rebellious undercurrent culture.  There is our antique quarter on Francis Street, our wonderful cafés past John’s Lane, the NCAD and the creative minds being hatched there, of course IMMA but also the small oddities such as the wonderfully eccentric Thomas House, and our culture clubs in the Patriots Inn.  There is opportunity for these areas to be expanded on too, with the new graffiti wall also on Francis Street and the interesting ideas being espoused by the Cork Street Park Campaign, not to mention the redevelopment of the Iveagh Markets (should it happen).  The contrast is stark, but then the population of Dublin 8 is such a mix of middle class professionals, working classes heroes, artisans, students and new Irish citizens. 

However, Bohemia, much like the German/Czech Provence, does not last forever and once the secret is out, the wonderful strangeness can be lost.  Former Dublin centres of Bohemian pursuits include the now infamous Temple Bar, George’s Street and the present incumbent, Camden Street.  There is a lesson in the former, Temple Bar, planned by then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey to be Dublin’s “Left Bank”, saved from the prospect of a dower bus depot, became a place filled with odd galleries, cheap cafes, and rock bars with eccentric energy on every lane.  Once, tourism and attention was drawn to this odd place in the centre of the city it soon became full of expensive restaurants, tacky O’Irish pubs and trinkets shops, the at times vulgar tourist trade obliterated the abstract, the different and the surreal, in favour of the mainstream and sellable. 

Of course, Dublin 8 is no stranger to tourism, two of the biggest attractions (the Storehouse & Kilmainham Gaol) on the island are located here.  And tourism is no bad thing, nor is the increasing interest in moving to this part of Dublin (though the rising rents that that interest brings certainly are), previously I have enjoyed pointing out that there is such investment coming into the area. The point to this piece is that we must continue to value the undercurrent of culture in this part of the city and that we must continue to both support and campaign for the daring. By this I mean that we visit our cultural clubs, that we support the building of areas designed solely for urban art, that we campaign for the restoration of the Iveagh Markets, and not to be another Avoca supermall either but to be something more belonging of the area, something of practical to use to its residents and not just its visitors.

Dublin 8 is a Bohemian place, it should strive to remain and build on that attribute.

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