Ranelagh Arts first launched in 2005, how has the arts scene in Ranelagh changed since then?
It has become a very important part of the community. As you probably know it features art exhibitions, when we have the space, but we also have workshops, drama, book readings, book launches, historical talks. We are also really involved in Tidy Towns, so that has made a huge difference and the festival has grown in the past few years, there were 50 events this year.
What is your best memory of being involved in the arts in the area?
I am an independent curator and I put on visual art exhibitions, about a dozen in the arts centre and at least a dozen acoustic gigs. There have been some wonderful events and some better than others, obviously [laughs]! And the collective which is a creative music and poetry, spoken word monthly concert in the back garden of the centre. They are some of my best memories. It was wonderful. It was curated, not an open mic, so the person behind The Collective organised who was playing.
Dublin is a city full of creative energy, do you think there is something special about being a creative person in Dublin?
It does have a huge amount of creative energy, its size is one of the special things, you can get around easily and visit places. It of course has a very good art college, that all helps, and it has quite a few art galleries also. It isalways in a state of flux, but everyone still knows each other. Artists can work together and inform each other and learn from each other. With NCAD, DIT, Ballyfermot and Dún Laoghaire, there are loads.
What are the advantages of being on the fringe of a capital city? Are there advantages to being situated in a neighbourhood?
Absolutely, it is very near the city centre, but Ranelagh still has its own identity. We are on the Luas, but the village feeling is very important, especially to the residents. We are exposed to the benefits too, like the theatre, etc.
You have a number of different spaces on offer for different types of events, but what is the future like for Ranelagh Arts Centre?
Well, we had to close the Ranelagh Arts Centre this year because we can’t afford a market rent, so we agreed to move out after the festival this year at the start of October. Very sad of course. My background is the visual arts and I’ve been the chairperson since May. We are launching a fundraising initiative this month to enable us to rent a space where we could put on exhibitions and have an office. However, Framexperts has been taken overrecently and the new owners are happy to accomodate exhibitions for us. We will have less because we don’t have staff anymore, but maybe nine or ten a year. We will be doing a Christmas group show. We have been talking to the manager of The Devlin also about using the cinema in the basement. Hopefully it will all pan out, it would be really good for literary events, talks, workshops.
That’s very resourceful, another sign of Ranelagh coming together to help each other.
Ranelagh Arts ran for three years before it got a premises, so we are just going back to that. It is important to have a main street presence but we are still going on, and of course running the festival every September. My priority is to keep the brand alive and not just every September festival but regular events. It could be walks, could be talks… Ranelagh Arts will continue. We get a generous grant every year for the festival from Dublin City Council, we couldn’t do it otherwise. It’s a community arts organisation, that’s very important. There is a great backing from local people who are very happy to be involved.
“Ireland Culture: 60 Seconds with Tony Strickland Of Ranelagh Arts Centre” originally appeared in Issue #1 of The Devlin Zine, a collaboration between The Devlin Dublin, District Magazine, & Roe & Co. Irish Whiskey.