Dublin developed a five year Cultural Strategy (2016–2021) as part of its bid to be European Capital of Culture 2020. The policy takes a holistic view, inviting all the city’s communities to take an active part in shaping and enjoying culture. Although the bid for Capital of Culture was unsuccessful, the ‘Dublin Culture Connects’ programme now managed by a new Dublin City Council Culture Company was adopted as a means of strengthening partnerships and including audiences across the city.
The underlying intention of the Cultural Strategy of Dublin City Council is to place culture at the centre of the city’s work and acknowledge its impact on all aspects of Dublin, including the economy, education, tourism, but with a particular emphasis on community and civic life. One strand of the work uses the concept of a ‘National Neighbourhood’, which raises awareness of the cultural assets of the city and invites people to use them through social programming. Another is the Dublin Fundraising Fellowship which helps communities develop fundraising skills. In addition, there is the Cultural Audit & Mapping Project which gives a better understanding of Dublin’s cultural ecology, providing insights which support cultural programming and policy.
The National Neighbourhood strand offers events ranging from singing groups, a creativity day for children and ghostly storytelling sessions, to gardening, traditional music and outreach for specific groups including the deaf community. There are also ‘culture clubs’ led by professionals who accompany groups to museums, galleries and arts venues throughout the year. Each visit ends with a ‘tea and chat’ session which allows people to socialise and discuss what they saw. In this way, the programme invites artists, community groups and even whole villages to meet and engage at libraries, museums and creative spaces – enjoying the resources that are there and also develop new creative outputs themselves. The ‘Culture Connects’ programme is run by the Dublin Culture Connects team in collaboration with many other cultural agencies including libraries, the Arts Office, galleries, museums, theatres, community groups, schools and young people.
Through these interventions, Dublin’s cultural offer has become more tangible and relevant to communities, empowering them to become involved and ultimately allowing them to drive the cultural agenda themselves. ‘Culture Connects’ received a special mention at the Culture 21 International Awards 2018. The jury praised the strategy for making cultural policy work for those who most need it, and for its success in creating cultural empowerment through listening and learning, as well as sharing with local residents.