A group of about 14 assembled outside the cinema on Parnell Street. It was a rainy Thursday evening and we were doing the Le Cool walking tour. Michael, our guide, told us how the tour strives to create a "of the moment" cultural experience of Dublin and how no two tours are the same.
Le Cool is a free weekly online magazine which started in Barcelona in 2003. It's now in 10 European cities as well as Moscow and Istanbul. Once you sign up, the e-zine is delivered to your inbox each Thursday and features cultural events around the city.
The walking tour is a Dublin initiative and is now being copied in other cities. It incorporates elements which have become staples of Le Cool's content such as exciting 'pop-ups' (temporary) , new collectives and initiatives.
Our first stop was pop-up Galleries Modonov on Capel Street. Curator Donna Marie O'Donovan gave us a guided tour of artist Gary Farrelly's exhibition All Roads Lead to Neustern). O'Donovan told us the background behind the bizarre and interesting exhibition. Farrelly's main piece of work was a big map of Neustern, the artist's imaginary city which represents his vision of utopia. Streets have names such as Espionage Avenue and Shirt-lifter Street. O'Donovan's background knowledge gave me an appreciation for the art and artist which I might not have received otherwise.
The next stop was a big empty space of waste land near Middle Abbey Street. Environmental and community activist Peter O'Brien joined us to tell us about a new idea of his that was just days old. He wants to creatively convert wasteland spaces in the city into recreational public spaces. His plan is to negotiate with organisations such as NAMA for the spaces and make 'pop-up parks' in Dublin city centre. Just a few weeks later, O'Brien had already raised €13,000 for the project.
From abandoned relics of the Celtic Tiger we strolled into a happening gallery with a DJ, hipsters and free booze. It was the opening night of For the Love of Progress art and design exhibition in Gallery Number One. We got to preview the exhibition before it opened and one of the artists, Gearóid, spoke in some detail to us about his thinking behind his artwork, a clever and colourful wormery.
Michael tells us that the next stop is a 'hidden hairdresser' on Bride Street. I'm sceptical that he is going to show me anything on a street that I walk up daily. But behind what looks like a disused shop is a cosy one-room salon owned by John McClory. He looks like the type of guy who likes to take his time at things and says in his dulcet Glaswegian tones that he only takes one person at a time with a five person max per day. His clients sit in a dentist's chair while his dog curls up at his feet. Regardless of what his skills are as stylist, I want him to cut my hair, if only for the experience.
Our tour ends at South Studios - exhibition space and workshops for a number of freelance creative businesses. Formally the home of the City of Dublin Brewing Company, it is now a listed building. Many of its original features are still in place, giving the building plenty of character. The Absolut Mode Media Fashion exhibition was showcasing in the studio's main space. Items on display were bespoke boots by Manolo Blahnik, a Versace bikini once worn by Kate Moss and a Versace dress once worn by Naomi Campbell. Michael then pointed us in the direction of two launches that we were welcome to go to for more free drink.
While I could have visited these exhibitions alone, I found going with the tour gave an opportunity to meet some of the curators and artists. It also opened up an informal conversation about Dublin's creative scene. I came away inspired by the Le Cool's team's enthusiasm and satisfied that I learned new things about my home town.
Le Cool walking tour runs on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. It costs €15.
For bookings visit: http://dublin.lecool.com/dublin/en/page/le%20cool%20experience
To sign up for Le Cool e-zine visit: http://dublin.lecool.com.
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