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Terry Prone: 'When it comes to culture our great Strumpet City is due her proper title'


Molly Malone statue

Molly Malone statue

Phil Lynott

Phil Lynott


Molly Malone statue

Dublin simply has to get the title. No disrespect to Galway or Limerick, the other two cities competing for the it, but there can be no doubt about this one.

This one is ours. If we don't win the European City of Culture 2020, there's no justice.

Dublin is the singingest, dancingest, paintingest, writingest city in the world, right now. We're tripping over novelists and any door you open, out will fall a musician.

Half the people who have jobs in formal proper places like the civil service moonlight in some area of art. They do it for free, often, because Dublin is that kind of city.

Any native-born Dubliner of any background knows that "culture" doesn't mean standing solemnly in front of a boring painting in a big frame while trying to look impressed.

It's much more alive and engaging than that. It's about making art whenever we can. It's about valuing artists - or criticising them, whichever we choose at the time.


It's about living in a city where, no matter where you are put down, the history of art in all of its wonderful forms unspools around you in a mad golden thread.

We sit at the foot of statues like the one of Molly Malone, and the song sings itself to us, as it has sung in the heads of Dubliners for a couple of centuries, melody and storyline evoked by the shiny girl with the boobs and the baskets of seafood.

We look up at Phil Lynott's bronze form and the same thing happens. We pass the languid statue of Oscar Wilde in Stephen's Green and memories of plays that can make twenty-first century Ireland laugh and learn come to mind.

When visitors come, we think first of what we were brought up to recommend to them: the Book of Kells and Trinity College.

But then we get distracted and tell them not to miss John Behan's beautiful sculpture of the angels.

Not that they're likely to miss it, since the surging water at the feet of the angels is bubbling, half the time, with soap suds introduced by Dubliners who know that the art they like can be fun, as well.

I doubt that any city in the world has so many buildings still standing, out of which ran, as children, the singers and songwriters, the painters and poets, dreamers and dancers.

Posh homes and poor homes, because our favourites, like Brendan Behan, came not from moneyed backgrounds but from families where books were an ever-present reality and a potential ticket out of deprivation.

Some of the names on the blue oval plaques marking the birthplace of the famous have faded from active memory, even though they were the great composers or writers of their time.

But even the fading names are part of a chain of continued culture, a linking of ideas and hopes and fighting words.


We have museums devoted to writers and to nothing in particular, except that everything to do with Dublin circles back to the culture of the city, whether it's the rhymes children used to employ as they skipped along chalked beds on the pavement, nudging a sand-filled shoe polish tin ahead of them, or the insults gurriers hurl at each other or record on walls.

We update our cultural reality every day whether in the form of children held rigid beneath their ringlets in Irish dancing or the happy music that pours out of a Salvation Army Sunday service in the city centre.

Our city was named by James Plunkett as a strumpet city, and she is just that: available, gaudy and tawdry.

But, like the famous photograph of Marilyn Monroe immersed in a copy of Ulysses, she is a girl who reads and is impressed by the mad run of perfect and profane words in such a book.

She has rights, that Strumpet City does, and one of them is to reclaim the title she hasn't held since 1991: European City of Culture.