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Soulful May in Dublin

Dublin City Soul Festival (2)

Dublin’s Merrion Square Park is one of the places where Dublin City Soul Festival will be celebrating the festival that ‘celebrates peace, unity and love’ between May 23rd and 24th. The Dublin City Soul Festival is a soul music festival that has been successively running during the Irish spring months since Chris Maher, Paul Slattery and Redmon O Hanlon founded it in 2007. The festival will also gather at the The Grand Social and Meeting House Square.

Over the years, Merrion Square has become one of the cities’ “to-go-to” places for cultural events. There are cultural events held here; boosted by the 250 year rich Georgian history and heritage. In 1762 the area was mapped out for the first time and building continued for the next 30 years. It is surrounded by leisure facilities, political, social and scientific significance.

The square is lined with Georgian Houses on three sides and on the fourth side you will find the garden of Leinster House, The National Gallery and Natural History Museum. Most of these houses are now used for office space and no longer inhabited by the famous poets, writers and politicians from the eighteen century that once lived in this famous quarter of Dublin city.

Oscar Wilde (16 October 1854 – 19 November 1900) – poet, author and playwright- lived in Merrion Square as a child in 1 Merrion Square (1855). Bram Stoker, author of the famous ‘Dracula’ spent much of his time visiting Lady Wilde’s salons during those years. Poet and Nobel Prize winner W.B. Yeats (13 June 1865-28 January 1939) lived at No 82 and Daniel O’Connell, The Emancipator and politician (6 August 1775-15 May 1847), lived at No 58.

At the centre of the square there is a beautiful public park with trees, flower schemes and shrubbery growing amongst pathways with benches for visitors to relax and enjoy the scenery. An outstretched sculpture of Oscar Wilde smoking his pipe is relaxing in the corner on a rock face. There is a river pool and playground for young children. The park has a big lawn area, big enough for concerts and performances and has become a place for hosting events, walking tours, music performances and talks.

‘Soul Picnic’ is hosted by the organisers of The Dublin City Soul Festival every year during the last weekend of May with this year falling on the 23 and 24 May. The festival gives awards to the community for soulful work in the community and tourists are gifted for their contribution to culture and soul work in Dublin. Dublin City Soul Festival also provides financial support to the Musical Youth Foundation and was the winner of the Irish Times Living Dublin Award for Culture in 2007.

The events held during the festival are mostly for free and those events that are charged for will go towards the foundation’s fund to continue their work in the community. Music that will be playing at the ‘Soul Picnic’ will have soulful feeling, and serves to encourage all types of genres and national and international musicians with soul feeling to take to the stage.  The festival also presents an event called ‘Rising Stars’, a competition similar to ‘You’re A Star’, searching for rising stars and new talent. The winners of the ‘Rising Stars’ get to play at ‘Soul Picnic’.


(From left to right): Carmen Browne, Frances Fitzgerald, and Chris Maher at the 2013 Dublin City Soul Festival 2013.

Regrettably even though the festival has enjoyed great success since its launch in 2007, the festival was hit by funding cuts as high as 78%, making it almost impossible to survive for much longer. However, the Soul Festival remains positive even though the future appears dim and sent a message to their supporters saying, “Despite this (the funding cuts) and with thanks to our strong volunteer team we have managed to keep the festival alive for the benefit of you our fans and supporters. In 2013 over 30,000 people visited Merrion Square Park for our unique Soul Picnic event, generating an estimated €1 million in economic activity based on Failté Ireland Per Diem Spend figures. The Dublin City Soul Festival is a vital fundraising event for children’s charity, the Musical Youth Foundation, which is working to help at-risk young people access life-changing music education programmes.”

The Musical Youth Foundation is a charity that provides children in Ireland with a musical education. The ‘Soul Festival’, in its 9th year, helps at-risk children in Ireland by funding them with free instruments, professional weekly music lessons and a variety of singing, song-writing and live performance works.  Howver, they need additional funding if they intend to carry on this special and much needed service for the children of Ireland. The festival is in partnership with Dublin Tourism, Dublin People, Pump Audio, Eircom and Balcony SponTV. It is hoped that this weekend at Merrion Square will draw a large crowd of cultured and soul filled music enthusiasts to enjoy the environment that was once home to the aristocrats and professional classes of Georgian Dublin.

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