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Gorgeous Unusual Brilliant Unique

MY bedtime reading when I have problems sleeping is a guidebook called The Essential Dublin. The ultimate guide of where to "drink, dance and dry clean", it tells the rich how to hire a helicopter (at 3A Clyde Road for £70 an hour) -- and tells the poor that hostel accommodation is available for "adult males of good health and character" for 5p in Benburb Street.

It recommends the Phoenix Park for anyone sleeping rough -- air mattresses cost 80p a week -- but warns your sleep might be disturbed by the police.

In describing the labyrinthine steps needed to successfully use a phone box, it makes Dublin sound like a wonderful city to visit.

Alas that city has disappeared. The Essential Dublin appeared in 1972, with its often comic information in serious need of updating.

Like all cities, Dublin is constantly renewing itself. Things that made it unique in 1972 (including the "leprechaunish cabaret" in the Clarence) have largely disappeared, but this doesn't stop Dublin from still being a unique, equally exhilarating and frustrating, place to live.

The problem with being surrounded by uniqueness is that often you don't see it. A wonder doesn't seem like a wonder when passed every day: its uniqueness only becomes apparent when it is gone.


Not only is the Dublin described in my guide book utterly changed, but the Dublin that replaced it -- with its punk bands and Dandelion Market and Joyful Mysteries encountered in Zhivago's nightclub -- is now equally gone, along with the pyramid scam spree of the Celtic Tiger, when Dubliners frantically decided to buy back Dublin from each other.

The city is now entering a new phase: its ever-changing population coming to terms with living in recession. It is starting the process of trying to keep the best off the past, while reinventing itself anew.

Because after everything that has happened -- both good and bad -- over the last decade, Dublin is trying to rebrand itself, both for the people living here and visitors flocking to it.

There is a danger in leaving rebranding to marketing consultants who have as many initials in the acronyms they trade under as there are noughts in the fees they charge.

But in looking at where Dublin is now and what remains unique about it, Dublin City Council, Tourism Ireland and the Little Museum of Dublin have launched an innovative public competition entitled "Uniquely Dublin" which allows professional or amateur artists, photographers, musicians, writers, or simply the man or woman on the street wishing to make a point or let off steam, to have their say about what makes Dublin unique for them.

The world is often divided into two types of people -- those who love Dublin but don't actually live here or those who can't stand the kip but would never dream of living anywhere else.

The entry rules for the Uniquely Dublin competition are wide enough to embrace people with good, bad and ambiguous opinions.

Bono sums up what many Dubliners feel when he said, "I climb over the wall and I get out of here sometimes because the place would make you tear your hair out. But I always want to come home to Dublin."

As part of Dublin City Council's process of rebranding the city, this new competition will be administered by the Little Museum of Dublin at St Stephen's Green: a museum which has done so much since opening to capture ordinary Dubliner's histories. It is now inviting people globally to re-define Dublin's shared identity in ways that are innovative and popular.

Museum director Trevor White says: "The purpose is to stimulate debate about the capital. We hope thousands of citizens will enter and it will feed into a much larger conversation about the future of our country. The choice is theirs." The ways people can enter are truly broad, ranging from simple text messages to short films. The search is for perspectives that define the city in compelling and original ways. Films must be under two minutes and written entries (prose, poetry, slogans or tweets) under 100 words. It can also be a photograph, design, drawing, sculpture or a piece of music under four minutes.

The best entries will be displayed in unusual places and unusual ways across Dublin in 2013. This sounds like a unique way to encapsulate what remains unique within Dublin.

Anyone wishing to have their say should enter. In these recessionary times there is the added incentive of €10,000 for the winner. According to The Essential Dublin, this would pay for a room with bath in the Intercontinental Hotel in Ballsbridge for three years. I need a new guide book and Dublin needs a new image. I hope Dubliners have a lot of fun providing one.

See www.uniquelydublin.ie for details