25 September 2012

Washing away from the soul the dust of everyday life

Smug's self-portrait adds some much needed colour to the omnipresent grey of Sandyford
FUAS at the Beacon Quarter, Sandyford, Dublin, Sunday 23rd September
After yesterday's tragic tale of Wooden Lionel Richie, it might be better to start today with something a little more positive and uplifting. On Sunday The Very Understanding Girlfriend and I travelled out to Sandyford, to the Festival of Urban Art Sandyford (or FUAS).

For those of you unfamiliar with what is now referred to as Sandyford, once, not so many years ago, it was a largely greenfields area on the outskirts of Stillorgan. Then a small business park was built, which grew and grew and grew. The Green line of the Luas used to terminate there, before its extension out to the wasteland of Bride's Glen, and during the Tiger years developers decided that what people wanted, what they really really wanted, was to live in apartment blocks in the middle of a business park at the tail end of a Luas line. Unsurprisingly, people had a slightly different idea, and today Sandyford stands as a half-completed monument to the folly of the Tiger years, with abandoned offices wrapped in razor wire nestled cheek to jowl with apartment complexes who states of completion starkly illustrate in brutalist grey the evolution of the ghost estate.

A psychedelic godhead rises to chase away the gloom
FUAS at the Beacon Quarter, Sandyford, Dublin, Sunday 23rd September
NAMA now seems to be the primary landlord here, and while it managed to sell 58 apartments to the housing charity Clúid (34 of which will be used as social housing), many of the buildings that remain are little more than shells, concrete tombstones that rise high above the hopes and aspirations of those who do call Sandyford home, reminding them that so much of their neighbourhood was dead before it ever had a chance to live. It is hard not to see the ironically named Beacon Quarter as nothing more than a proto-Banlieue, the future site of seething social tensions with families who bought in to the Tiger Dream trapped forever by unpayable mortgages and unsellable homes, their children chased off the manicured lawns of the office blocks with only the for-profit indoor sterility of Imaginosity (with its carefully constructed child-sized faux supermarket to teach them the joys of consumerism) or the rusted iron rods of crumbling and abandoned foundations as their playgrounds.

The quasi-pointillism of Psychonautes (left) meets the mythic lines of Belfast-based Friz (right)
FUAS at the Beacon Quarter, Sandyford, Dublin, Sunday 23rd September
Last year I spent a number of months in Sandyford, trapped in a prison of my own failing body, confined to a hospital bed while being fed through a tube in my arm, and I must admit that this experience has forever altered my perception of this place. It was hard not to conflate the decaying landscape around me with the collapse of my own organs, with no apparent fix available for either, the only option simply to wait the whole thing out and hope for eventual recovery. The shell of one nearby building was wrapped in a fabric awning, printed to depict scenes of completed apartments underneath with happy families staring out from within, the ensuing aura of unreality mirroring the fugue I found myself lying in. As the weeks passed the wind shredded this fabric fantasy world, tearing it away in strips like the plasters being ripped from my skin, exposing the open wounds of both beneath.

Corridors of colour weave their way concrete skeletons
FUAS at the Beacon Quarter, Sandyford, Dublin, Sunday 23rd September
But this post, as I said, is supposed to be positive and uplifting, and that is where FUAS comes in. Ironically funded by NAMA, FUAS is an attempt to bring a bit of colour, creativity and joy to the dereliction Beacon residents find themselves living in. Identifying one particular stretch of land originally categorized as a boulevard, now simply a walkway between two unfinished building sites, as an area ripe for some form of regeneration the organisers invited a host of Irish and International street artists to spend the weekend transforming the post-industrial into the liveable. The street artist community responded with open arms, with veterans like SUMS and the TDA Klan stepping out with more commercially-orientated artists like ADW and Morgan. The contrast between the riot of colours the artists laid down and the industrial grey palette that surrounded them could not be greater, their glow matched only by the smiles of the families pausing to watch, and while all street art is transitory I hope that these pieces survive for many a long day to come.

The most wistful flying monkey you are ever likely to see
FUAS at the Beacon Quarter, Sandyford, Dublin, Sunday 23rd September
Just as the only solution for my own illness was the hope that my body would repair itself, so too does the future success of Sandyford lie not with the temporary relief provided through developer-led projects like FUAS however well-intentioned, but with the actions of the residents themselves. As we have seen throughout Ireland's Tiger projects, a community cannot be created by developers, it can only grow organically from within the residents themselves, though sadly so often neighbours only become a community when disaster strikes (such as in Priory Hall). However if initiatives like FUAS can help to break down the physical and metaphysical walls that exist within a neighbourhood caused by the sad realities of its architecture, then the more of these events that occur the better.

As for my own perceptions of Sandyford, I have to say that this weekend felt like some sort of personal closure, bringing a sense of beauty and happiness to a mental landscape that up till then held only pain.

Perhaps my own personal FUAS was long overdue.

More photos from FUAS can be found over at lusciousblopster's Flickr set

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At 11:25 pm, Blogger Seanán Kerr said...

Really lovely stuff, reminds me a bit of Sao Paulo (in terms of quality rather than style, this stuff is a lot more polished than what you see there, which is a good and a bad thing).

I did wonder re: the person who destroyed the Phil Lynott phone booth, what the hell goes through the mind of someone who does that, are you just drunk and mad, are you responding to some injury that's been done to you by lashing out, or are some people just despicable? The fact that some of it was returned implies the person was ashamed by their actions, which puts them several moral levels above our leaders.

At 10:49 pm, Anonymous zoe said...

hi, just today i happened to be in sandyford, i had time to kill so i just walked a round the industrial estate, there was something very strange about it, i didnt feel like i was in ireland at all, it almost scared me. i googled it and i came upon your blog, i am a film and tv student and i have to do a documenary as part of the course. would you be interested basing it around you and the industrial estate? you talked about your illness and the estate almost as one, very interesting. i know this is strange asking but i thought ide bite the bullet!maybe yu could leave a post if your innterested on this page? zoe

At 9:21 pm, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

@zoe - drop me an email to info at boomingback.org and let's have a chat, sounds like an interesting idea.


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