On the 3rd of May 2001, the Draíocht was officially opened by President Mary McAleese, with over 600 guests in attendance. 20 years on, an event like this is obscure. It has become the home for performance and visual arts for Dublin 15, inspiring and encouraging a community to get involved, from theatre to comedy, with music, dance, art and film all in between. At the start of 2020, things were off to a bright start, with incredible line ups and sold-out shows from Jason Byrne to Reeling in the Showband Years, the gallery spaces were open and they had their first formal exhibition addressing climate change; Holdfast by Ann Ensor, and the Holdfast project space by Orla Goodwin, which was an interactive project space that connected with the Holdfast exhibition. However, mid-march all plans came to an abrupt pause, with over 50,000 people passing through the building a year, how have things changed since the pandemic hit?
Live shows, events and galleries were closed, but instead of waiting until the storm passed, the centre used its initiative. D15 Youth Theatre and Create Dancers did weekly zoom classes, as well as participants sending Jess Rowell, dance artist in residence, weekly digital updates. As well as this, Learn to Play Music Day, with the help of Castleknock School of Music, where participants could learn guitar, piano, violin, amongst other instruments, moved online and to stay connected with the community #showusyourart was launched, over 326 works of art were made by 164 children. In June, the Draíocht took part in Cruinniú na nÓg, 7 artists created 18 videos and 18 illustrated worksheets, totalling over 42,000 Facebook and YouTube video views and Summer projects moved online with Artist Deirdre O’Reilly.
After being closed for 105 days, the Draíocht finally reopened its doors on the 29th of June and opened to the public on the 20th of July, in the gallery had all the artwork from the #showusyourart campaign. The Artist Support Series was launched, this helped over 79 artists, giving them free rehearsal and creative space from July to December and on Culture Night the Draíocht made it to RTE News to enjoy one incredible performance of United Fall’s ‘BirdBoy’ as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival before closing again for the next lockdown.
This was definitely a challenging time for the centre; they continuously rescheduled shows, honoured all contracts, paid artists and refunded almost 5000 tickets. However, they continued to inspire and motivate a community to interact with the arts, this time they moved outdoors, took to the woods for Draíocht Rocks and Spooky Stories at Halloween.
After a year as a dance resident, they created two much dance films with Jess Rowell, Chance to Dance and Between Us There is… By Christmas, they collaborated with Jo Quinn Emily Matthews and Dabblesdoo Music to Produce “Quest For the Jingle” a show for families and schools to enjoy online for the whole month of December and this got more than 5000 views from an international audience in Ireland, UK, Spain, Germany, Australia, Hungary, France and Botswana. The Draíocht hosted their first-ever live stream in December, a performance by Musician Tom Duffy and during Christmas, they illuminated the building with the help of Fingal county council, here’s to a brighter future.