Chris McCormack is a theatre critic based in Ireland who has been writing about the cultural landscape in Dublin for the past decade.
In December, McCormack published an article on his blog ‘FeelingGood’ titled “City of phantoms: How did Dublin enter cultural collapse?”. The article addressed the wave of development demolishing venues in the city, and told the story of their history. It explored how Dublin lost its cultural soul to vulture funds and landlords, and suggested that infrastructurally, the city is in a state of collapse.
The disappearance of many iconic Dublin venues were chronicled in the piece. Andrew’s Lane Theatre, CityArts Centre, Chapters Bookshop and the Eblana Theatre at Busáras are but a few of the artistic spaces that were forced to close their doors in an increasingly homogenised city.
The history of The Complex was recounted in the piece. Artistic Director Vanessa Fielding often secured unique venues for staging plays, with Collins Barracks, the Law Society and Dublin Brewing Company playing host to her productions. In 2008, Fielding persuaded developer Paddy Kelly to entrust her with empty ground floor units on the edge of Smithfield Square, thus birthing The Complex.
The site was eventually acquired by NAMA, and Fielding struck a deal to move The Complex to the former Keelings Fruit Market on Little Green Street. After a couple of years, a hotel was due to be built on the Little Green Street Site, forcing The Complex to move once again. In 2019, The Complex moved to it’s current home in Arran Street East and Mary’s Abbey. In an interview with Peter Crawley that year, Fielding spoke about the uncertainty of being a cultural space in a privately owned building. “All the good work could dissipate, unless, say, the Department of Culture were to buy the site,” she said.
The significance of these venues and the inspirations that can grow from them are articulated in “City of phantoms: How did Dublin enter cultural collapse?” with nuance.
McCormack encourages us to contemplate what might happen without cultural hubs, and suggests that void of them, Dublin may be left with no identity.