In the deserted laneways of Ranelagh, a game is on.
The beautiful Victorian alleyways are among the best in the city, says Emer O’Siochru, the chair of Ranelagh Arts and an architect.
Last spring, she started to photograph the art, architecture and natural beauty of Ranelagh’s laneways.
Laneways feel different to other public spaces, says O’Siochru.
“People don’t know how unusual our laneways are, to have them still and how different they are from the public areas,” she says. “There is so much beautiful texture around.”
She snapped a picture of a mural of a fox, an old archway with a blue door, and a long lane with trees branched over in a natural canopy. Using 32 of those pictures, she designed a treasure hunt.
Ranelagh Arts is also running a painting competition focused on the laneways.
The aim of both the hunt and the contest is to draw attention to those forgotten spaces and encourage people to reimagine them, says O’Siochru.
As in many other parts of the city, the space for cultural activities is shrinking and perhaps some of the disused spaces attached to the laneways could form part of the solution, she says.
The Treasure Hunt
It is free to join the treasure hunt and participants can incorporate it into their daily exercise, as long as they live within 5km of Ranelagh.
When people sign up, Ranelagh Arts will send them a sheet with photos of each location that they need to find and a map of the laneways.
Participants can then tick off each location on the map and take a selfie at the last location, she says.
The winner is the player or team who finds all of the places – although O’Siochru deems that unlikely. “They won’t find them all. I can’t even find them again.”
If more than one group completes the mission, the winner is the fastest to finish, she says.
Players should note that the photos were taken in spring and summer so the places might look different in winter, she says.
Obviously, players should only form teams with members of their own household.
Opening People’s Eyes
As well as drawing people’s attention to the beauty of the laneways, the project aims to encourage people to reimagine the laneways as spaces and to highlight how much disused space is connected to them.
“The treasures are just a way of opening people’s eyes,” she says.
Many houses have yards and garages that they aren’t using, she says. Meanwhile, there’s a lack of space for community and cultural activities in the area.
Ranelagh Arts lost its base recently. It got new premises last month thanks to Dublin City Council, but the space is much smaller and it shows the issues that exist, she says. “It is very hard to put cultural activities in a high value area.”
O’Siochru says it is a mistake that planners don’t deem community and cultural amenities to be as important as parks.
If you built on all the green space obviously you would ruin an area, she says. But likewise “if you force out all of the cultural activities that give life to an area, you eventually devalue that area”.
She would love to persuade locals to let Ranelagh Arts convert, temporarily, their disused garages that back onto the laneways into artists studios or exhibition spaces, she says.
Ranelagh Arts hopes to figure out an incentive scheme to support that, she says.
Likewise if all the residents were to agree, an entire laneway could be converted to an art gallery, or a community garden or wild meadow, she says.
Art in the Open
Ranelagh Arts is also running a painting competition on the same theme.
Contestants should select a unique spot down a laneway in Ranelagh to paint. “All the forgotten places,” she says.
The competition is open to any skill level. Participants work alone in a quiet outdoor setting so it is totally safe, she says. (They can also take a photo of their chosen scene and work at home.)
Once Covid-19 restrictions ease, there will be a real-life exhibition in a tent, where judges will select the winners, she says.
“There is enough virtual stuff happening,” she says. “We wanted to do something real.”
She reckons the painting competition couldn’t be safer. Laneways are usually deserted except for the cats, she says. “The cats rule, imperious-looking cats.”
It costs €10 to enter the painting competition. The closing date for both competitions is 1 February.