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Dylan Longman spills a pint glass full of change onto the counter. “Have we got dried chillies here? Rocket, have we got rocket?”

He scrapes up some of the coins, pulls on his jacket, and leaves to buy more ingredients in a nearby shop.

Longman and his chef buddy Jorge De Miguel Roman have 20 pizzas to make for the night’s Pizza and Jam session.

“In the winter, we thought, there’s no social spaces that don’t cost an arm and a leg, where you can meet people and have a nice time,” says Longman. He’s rolling some dough with an empty wine bottle.

“So, we thought about this idea. Cooking pizzas and having musicians jamming,” he says.

Cheap Eats

Pizza and Jam meet every Monday, except for bank holidays, at Jigsaw, a space off Mountjoy Square used by different community groups.

Longman and De Miguel Roman make pizzas while musicians play in the centre of the room. Entry is open to anyone and there’s a suggested donation.

“We have chicken tikka as well this time,” says Longman, as he looks over the bowls of ingredients on the counter. There’s pulled pork too.

They get ingredients for free from a vegetable market in Dublin 7, or from the food truck where De Miguel Roman works, if they’ve leftovers from festivals or events.

Both have worked as chefs. “When I moved here, I started as a kitchen porter,” De Miguel Roman says. “I work as a chef in a cafe and I love cooking.”

It’s a simple concept that’s proved popular. On busy nights, 50 to 70 people show up.

Cash donations are encouraged. But if someone doesn’t have money, there’s no pressure to pay, says De Miguel Roman. He slathers tomato sauce onto the spelt pizza dough.

“After the weekend, people don’t want to spend more money,” says De Miguel Roman. “Here, you can come and it’s very cheap. You can bring your drink.”

The first floor of Jigsaw has a big open space with fold-out chairs and tables lit with small tealights.

At 6pm, some people drift in and make their way through to the back garden behind the venue to drink cans of Heineken.

Express Yourself

Laura Rossi is one of the first people in. She’s a fire-eater and sometimes she’ll perform with her torches out back, when the sun is down.

Right now, she’s balancing some empty plastic bottles on her nose. Later, she’ll put on a pair of heels and walk across the tops of glass bottles.

Rossi moved to Dublin from Rome seven years ago. She has a background in gymnastics and when she moved here, she found the Dublin Circus Project.

She learned juggling, acrobatics, and fire performance. Outside the circus, Pizza and Jam is one of the few places where she can express herself, she says.

“Dublin is too pub-orientated. I like a space where I can do the things that I like without being in a pub all the time,” she says.

Gareth Curtis is the first musician on tonight. His thing is blues, and he improvises a song about Pizza and Jam.

“This is creative freedom. This is having a chilled-out time,” he sings, plucking his guitar.

Pilar Paradela Mateos grabs a microphone and scat-sings along.

A crowd of about 30 people lounge outside under the rare sun with smokes and cans.

De Miguel Roman serves the first pizza of the night: chicken tikka and peppers. There are vegan and vegetarian pizzas too.

Around 7pm, more musicians stroll in. There’s a saxophone player, a drummer, a guy with a cajon and another guitar player.

Ru O’Shea plays the mandolin, banjo, guitar, or “anything with strings”. He’s also learning sound therapy with the use of gongs.

He was convinced to go to Pizza and Jam by Curtis, his roommate, he says. “I finally came and was like, okay, this is what my Monday nights look like!”

Often a jam session involves a song swap. People take a turn to play a song each, O’Shea says. Maybe some people join in.

But “that’s not really the buzz here,” O’Shea says. “It’s more like, you pick two chords and run with it. All of a sudden, there’s going to be like five people playing saxophones and drums and there are guitars going.”

“Big jams unfold. Musically, that’s what I love about it,” he says.

It’s friendly, says O’Shea. “You can just kind of buzz your way through and assume that everybody’s pretty sound if they ended up here.”

For Mateos, the event helped her find her voice. She met a group of musicians when she first moved to Dublin from Salamanca in Spain almost two years ago. She busked, and later discovered Pizza and Jam.

“You can come here with your songs, but you can also free your style,” she says.

She improvised for the first time at Pizza and Jam. “In the beginning, you feel a bit nervous, because you don’t know what’s going to [happen].”

“But I think just in a few months I’ve become comfortable in what I’m doing. As a musician, you feel total freedom,” she says.

Longman and De Miguel Roman say they’re grateful to have a free space to hang out in during the week.

Barry Semple, who leases the building, lets the Pizza and Jam crew use it for free.

Other smaller cities in Europe have cooperatives and alternative spaces, Longman says. “Dublin has next to nothing.”

Their only complaint is the gas oven. “It takes too much time for one pizza,” says De Miguel Roman.

By 9pm, six musicians are at centre-floor, where they’ll stay for much of the rest of the night. With two saxophone players, two drummers, a bongo player and three guitarists, it’s a full-swing session.

Aura McMenamin

Aura McMenamin is a city reporter.

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