Tales from the Promised Land

Tales from the Promised Land was a site-specific art exhibition held in 2008 in St. Michael’s Estate. It publicly celebrated and shared a range of diverse artwork that had been created against the backdrop of the proposed regeneration plans for St. Michael’s Estate in Inchicore.

It presented visual stories as a celebration of community life by children, young people, women and men, all living and working in St. Michael’s Estate.

Since 1998, the residents have been waiting for the estate’s development to materialise. In 2005 the St. Michael’s Regeneration Board was formed and by May 2008 the Public Private Partnership process that been developed had collapsed. As a result, for many residents change now seems distant and tangential.

Tales from the Promised Land was an exhibition that addressed what happens when promised changes don’t materialise and celebrating in the face of that.

People continue to live in St. Michael’s Estate and have their tales to tell, from many perspectives. These tales are the stories of St. Michael’s Estate. They are not fantasies. They are real. They are tales for the times we live in.

Common Ground is proud and honoured to stand alongside the physical realisation of Tales from the Promised Land. Common Ground, St. Michael’s Youth Project, the Family Resource Centre and the artists involved have worked tirelessly towards a public manifestation and celebration of these visual stories.

The exhibition was officially launched in St. Michael’s Estate by Declan McGonagle, the Director of NCAD, in November 2008.


No Ordinary Lives

In November 2007, the Family Resource Centre (FRC) Women’s Group together with Phil Keane, FRC project worker, collaborated with Common Ground and photographer Aislinn Delaney to develop two pieces of work.

Using eighteenth century costumes and props to explore the differences between the daily lives of women then and now, Blast from the Past emerged as a photographic project. Aislinn worked with the local women to explore the history of the area as well as sharing her skills as a professional photographer. The work was publically exhibited in St. Michael’s Estate.

Following on from that, No Ordinary Lives was inspired by the stories of women prisoners and visitors linked with Kilmainham Gaol over the years. The local women re-enacted scenes in the jail from stories told about these women which were captured through photography. This work was exhibited publically on bus shelters in the area and also in St. Michaels Estate.

The Women’s Group was Nicky Fahy, Deirdre Mockler, Adrienne Shortt and Claire Smyth.

Aislinn Delaney completed a BA in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport and returned to St. Michael’s Estate in 2007 to work in collaboration with the local Family Resource Centre as well as on her own documentary practice.


Children of Lir

The Children of Lir was a photography project in 2007 that was inspired by the Irish Folk Tale of the same name.

The Women’s Group from the Family Resource Centre (FRC) in St. Michael’s Estate worked with photographer Aislinn Delaney on this project. Through photography the group addressed issues around drug addiction, poverty and violence in their own community.

The work, which evoked the idea of a curse as a way of understanding the injustices that created a generation lost to drug abuse in the area was exhibited in St. Michael’s Estate as part of Tales from the Promised Land.


Where Old Blocks Go and The Hoarding Project

In March 2007, St. Michael’s Regeneration Board commissioned visual artists Joe Lee and Thomas O’Connor to work with the residents of St. Michael’s Estate to develop a project that would capture and visualise a new and positive future for the area.

The project was planned to be a series of photographic installations on the physical hoarding of the St. Michael’s Estate site while phase two of the promised regeneration was taking place.

Joe and Thomas worked with local residents and groups in a series of consultations and photography workshops from April to November 2007.

A wide range of groups took part in the process: Bulfin Youth Project from St. Michael’s Estate, the Blocks Committee, Traveller Families, the FRC After Schools Group, the Breakfast Club and the Children’s Group from Inchicore Community Drugs Team.

By May 2008 the Public Private Partnership for the re-development of St. Michael’s Estate collapsed.

Inchicore Community Drug Team hosted a digital showing of the entire Hoarding Project honouring the contribution and work made by all the individuals and groups.

The section created by the Breakfast Club, Where Old Blocks Go, was also shown on Block 4 of St. Michael’s Estate. It represented a small model of the flats placed by participants in a favoured location and photographed by Joe Lee.

The participants were Phyllis Bolton, Ann Marie Brennan, Helena Burbridge, Eilish Comerford, John Dempsey, Rita Fagan, Nelly Kinnane, Jo Kennedy, Chrissie Lawless, Rose Martin and Pauline Tunstead.

Joe Lee graduated from NCAD in the 1980s and works as an artist and independent film and video maker. Since the 1990s he has developed an ongoing working relationship with many groups and organisations in the Inchicore area.

Thomas O’Connor is a visual artist interested in working collaboratively with people living through changes such as urban regeneration. He has worked in O’Devaney Gardens, Fatima Mansions and Bray.


Men’s Storytelling Project

The Men’s Storytelling Project was an initiative of the Family Resource Centre. The project began in 2007 with a series of storytelling workshops facilitated by actress and playwright Bernie Downes and FRC Community Development worker, Marion Jameson.

It ran until July 2008 while the group worked with Joe Lee to produce a recording of songs and stories recalling their memories of Dublin from the 1940s to the 1970s

The people involved in the project were John Demspey (Bruce), John Brophy, James Moles and John Cully (Ace).

The Family Resource Centre is committed to working with senior citizens now housed in Bulfin Court. The Breakfast Club meets every Wednesday in the Family Resource Centre and the Men’s Group evolved out of that club.


About Me and Create the Frame

About Me was an after-school project of the Family Resource Centre (FRC) in St. Michael’s Estate which focused on photography.

This programme, run by photographer Darragh Shanahan, began in the summer of 2005. Since then, children aged between five and twelve years of age have explored and responded directly to their local area through the medium of photography.

In May 2006, an exhibition of their work, ‘Stick Stories’, took place in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).

During the course of the programme, in collaboration with Suas, the educational wing of Concern, children on the programme exchanged photographs with children from India and Kenya.

In September 2007 the group began a new phase of the programme, entitled Create the Frame. Through this phase, Darragh assisted the children to develop their photographic skills by creating a studio environment for them to work in. As part of this, they composed their own portraits and those of other children in the group. They then went on to create their own frames for these in a further craft session.

In November 2008, in collaboration with other community groups in St. Michael’s Estate, the children displayed a selection of work they had been working on since 2005 in the exhibition Tales from the Promised Land.


Pimp My Irish Banger

Pimp My Irish Banger was the result of a long term collaborative public art project between a group of children from St. Michael’s Youth Project, Common Ground and visual artist Terry Blake.

During 2006 a group of children aged from 11 to 13, along with two youth workers from St. Michaels Youth Project, were inspired by the TV programme Pimp My Ride as a way of addressing the ongoing issue of joyriding in the St. Michael’s Estate area.

They purchased 12 old car doors and bonnets and under Terry’s guidance they created their own art work by individually customising the doors and bonnets.

Terry Blake explained that “the group researched on the internet and collected images they liked. Using a computer technique they transformed photographs into stencils which were then projected, drawn and painted directly onto the doors and bonnets.”

By using the visual arts to describe and embody important ideas, images and issues, this project represented a process of empowerment for a specific group of young people from Dublin 8.

An exhibition of the work took place in NCAD in 2009 alongside the launch of their inaugural programme with an exhibition by Turner Prize nominee Phil Collins.

The group of young people that created the work included Dean Farrell, Jonathan O’Reilly, Glen Keogh and Ian O’Brien and the two youth workers from St. Michaels Youth Project were Eric Caffrey and Carol Byrne.