Sunday 19 November 2017

Cruinniú 2017, behind the scenes: 'Go to explore... try lots of things...'

Gráinne Loughran speaks to some of the people behind the planning of one of the biggest events in Ireland this year

Movers and shakers: Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys, with Julian Brigatti of Tango Fiesta watched by Iseult McNamara at the launch of Cruinniú na Cásca. Sportsfile
Movers and shakers: Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys, with Julian Brigatti of Tango Fiesta watched by Iseult McNamara at the launch of Cruinniú na Cásca. Sportsfile

Cruinniú na Cásca may not have all the pomp and ceremony of last year's Easter Rising centenary celebrations, but behind the scenes are a host of organisations who have put months of work into orchestrating this year's Easter Monday event.

The Creative Ireland programme has been working with RTÉ, the Office of Public Works, Dublin City Council, An Garda Síochána, the National Transport Authority, Dublin Town and more, in the hopes of creating a streamlined and successful inaugural festival.

Creative Ireland director John Concannon said collaboration was central to the Ireland 2016 commemorations - and that cooperation is now continuing.

"To make large scale public events like Cruinniú happen requires a huge multiplicity of organisations to work together. We are delighted to see the goodwill, collaboration and teamwork from 2016 continue into the Creative Ireland Programme with Cruinniú na Cásca," he said.

Clyde Carroll of Dublin Town says the process for this weekend grew out of the events of the last two years.

"The thing that we really like as a company is the collaborative approach with this," says Mr Carroll. "This is all the major stakeholders on the same page and working together for the benefit of the city."

Everything from accessibility to engaging with particular aspects of space and place were considered by the key organisers in choosing the four main sites in the city for events on Monday, with St Stephen's Green, Smithfield, Custom House Quay and Dublin Castle being chosen after deliberations by the organisations involved.

Dublin City Council has been involved not only in running their own events on the day, but providing animation and dressing of the city through large scale building banners, preparation of the event site at Smithfield, and behind-the-scenes traffic, roads and planning support.

"The selection of four sites was made to maximise the potential participation on the day, taking into account many factors such as ease of access to the locations, public realm capacity, [and] public transport options," says Margaret Hayes, Dublin City Librarian. "Internally Dublin City Council has established a DCC Creative Ireland team and we have focused on how we could support the day and provide some service specific cultural programming on the day."

Diversity and inclusion are the central themes to this year's event, and Rosemary Collier of the Office of Public Works says that these have been mirrored in how it was organised.

"You'll notice that there's a different theming in every location - Stephen's Green will focus on children and the imagination, Smithfield is a bit more about young adults and how they express their creativity," she says. "Through food and through the programming you're getting a very diverse range of cultural experiences and what it means to be Irish, and I think that is evident in the programming. It will speak quite loudly of diversity in terms of the themes, the content, the ideas, the demographics of people interacting with this; I think it will be evident in the event itself."

With roughly 350,000 people expected to visit the capital on Monday, An Garda Síochána have been arranging a considerable presence around the city in collaboration with the National Transport Authority.

"We've been planning since Christmas for this, building from what we did for the centenary last year," says Inspector Brian Cullen. "We have two planning teams, one for the south city centre and one for the north and we've been meeting regularly and going through our plans for the day. We've been going over to the department of the Taoiseach every two weeks, and doing a lot of work with the National Transport Authority, too. Inter-agency cooperation is the name of the game nowadays."

Moving 350,000 people around Dublin city is no small feat, and Transport for Ireland has been coordinating transport and encouraging attendees to use public transport for travelling across the city on Monday.

"We learned from our experiences last year for the 1916 event, so there was already a theme in place and we really took up from where we left off last year and tried to coordinate the public transport for these events," says director Anne Graham.

"It's a model that we've been using for quite a number of events. We'll also be putting all the public transport information on our website and on journey planning apps as well, so it's really about getting the information out to the public."

Clyde Carroll also notes that the inclusionary nature of Cruinniú na Cásca goes right down to the level of local businesses.

"If you go back four or five years ago, the majority of businesses would be closed on a Bank Holiday Monday, but that has changed now," he says. "That will tell you what these events have done, they have created an environment where businesses want to be open because their customers are in town. Everybody sees what can be achieved by working together."

With all the work that's been done by a huge number of people and organisations to make Cruinniú na Cásca a reality, Rosemary Collier's advice to attendees is just to explore and make the most of it: "I think go forth and explore. There's so much interesting material in the programme across the locations and really interesting use of the spaces and the places, the programme is very dynamic in relation to the locations. I would say to people to go to explore. Be prepared to try lots of things," she says.

Irish Independent

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