Home to the literary likes of Lilliput Press, the creative advocates of Block T, the trad specialists at Cobblestone and the indie-chic Light House Cinema, Dublin’s north-west inner city has been simmering in the primordial stages of a cultural quarter for a few years now.
Next month, it will take a leap in evolutionary terms when it becomes the home of a new multi-disciplinary arts centre. The Complex, run by an eponymous organisation of creative artists, will house nine artists’ studios, a rehearsal room and an exhibition space.
The aim of the centre is to provide an innovative programme of work, ranging from new original theatre, to visual arts, music, comedy, dance and even circus.
The Complex’s debut event in September will be a special one: Twenty First at Tiger Dublin Fringe festival. It’s an installation to celebrate the festival’s 21st anniversary, where seven 21-year-olds will be living in a cage for ten days and visitors will be able to interact with them.
The centre is located on Little Green Street opposite the old Fruit and Vegetable Market, in what was a large vacant fruit warehouse before the Complex got their creative hands on it.
This isn’t the group’s first renovation project. Their six-year history has been as much about turning vacant spaces into “centres of professional art practice” as about making art.
In 2009, they moved into vacant units on Smithfield Square and ran an arts centre similar to what they plan for Little Green Street, but without the studio spaces, says Vanessa Fielding, the group’s artistic director.
In the middle of those years, the developer who owned the property went bust. In 2012, NAMA took over the property and they had to leave, Fielding says.
“It gave us a trial run,” Fielding says. “It was a very useful experiment.”
Now, having scored a ten-year lease at Little Green Street, the centre’s future is more secure.
The renovation of the old warehouse, which is well under way, will cost €60,000. Dublin City Council has given a grant of €25,000 and the group has come up with a way to raise the other €35,000: the Little Green Brick Campaign.
You can make a donation by buying a little green brick for €10 to €250. Each donor will receive a year’s membership to the Complex and will have their name inscribed on a special sponsors’ wall at the centre.
Once up and running with the artists’ studios rented, the new arts centre should be self-sustaining, Fielding says.
“So we don’t have to go to the Arts Council and our whole lives aren’t contingent on whether we get a grant at a certain time of year,” she says. “We’ve all done that and it’s tiring and it’s no fun.”
For Fielding, the Complex “completes an 18-year journey, trying to open a live-art centre in the north-west inner city”.
She and other artists in the Complex have been working closely in the community for many years in various different community projects, and have a real affinity with area.
Fielding says she and the other artists “all recognised there was a big hive of energy here and that it didn’t really have an arts outlet. There hadn’t been an arts centre, there are no theatres, there’s nothing really.”
“There are a few studios that have come and gone, a few still here, but it’s lean on the ground,” she says.
She thinks there may be a perception that this part of the city is a bit rough, the territory a little unknown for culture-vultures.
She hopes that the new arts centre will change this perception and encourage people to come to the area.“It’s a really beautiful old area of town, it’s got amazing history to it, a lot of characters came from around here.”
“We felt that the area deserved it. So, here we are,” she says.