This week, news reached that Block T, an arts and culture organisation based in Smithfield has to leave their premises in the Dublin 7 area and find space for 120 members who utilise the space’s 70 studios.
Their members include dozens of practioneers in design, art, fashion, visual art, painting, web developers, screenprinting, musicians, animation and beyond not to mention their hotdesks which anyone could use.
I’ve worked with Block T on a number of events over the years, most notably our Minimum Maximum gigs in the space, where the lineup wasn’t announced in advance and we had Le Galaxie, Fight Like Apes, Rusangano Family, Planet Parade, Bantum and White Collar Boy play surprise shows. The people who run the space are some of the soundest people you’ll meet, passionate about Block T as a creative space.
As you can see above, Block T are a thread for a disparate group of creative people and it would be a real pity for that to disappear just because of rising rents (we’ve been here before in Ireland, and we cannot let commercialism rule over creativity in every aspect of society once again).
Block T spent six years in Smithfield, building a community and a hub that was felt at galleries, exhibitions, festivals like Body & Soul, Knockanstockan and many other events.
An organisation like this relies not on public funding (which only makes up 2% of their income) but membership fees. This leaves Block T in the situation it is currently in, without a safety net, at the mercy of the market.
In the last two years or so, we’ve lost creative hubs like Mabos, Monster Truck, The Factory, Moxie and The Joinery. All gone. All scattered to the city. Dublin City Council should recognise the value of creative-lead spaces like Block T while we still have them but we cannot wait for action on that front. We already know how important they are. A city needs a soul and it’s getting increasingly soulless in Dublin.
From their press release.
We’re inviting advocates, champions for Irish culture, interested patrons, local TDs, mentors and entrepreneurs to support us through this time of transition with advocacy, space provision and capital. We’re looking for new partners who understand the value of social and creative enterprises, and who share our vision for sustainable creative communities for Dublin. We believe these independent spaces are not only necessary in times of economic decline, but also in time of growth.
Alternative and independent cultural spaces are what makes a city a vibrant, authentic place. Their programmes and projects enrich and diversify the output of Irish culture, which greatly contributes to its tourism industry and global reputation. More importantly these projects play an integral role in community development, offering innovative ways to nurture and support the talent of this industry that will help fuel our economy in the years ahead.
Block T are not crying foul, giving out, blaming gentrification, greed or lack of support. They want to remain a vital independent cultural alternative space in the city and are moving towards that goal. It is possible. It doesn’t have to be the end of the story. To do so, they need some help, some leads, an opportunity to flourish not disappear. If you can help, or have a suggestion for a place, contact Grace or Laura.
Update: some positive news today with an announcement of a €9m investment scheme for arts and culture centres, which may apply to places like Block T.
Managing Director: Laura Garbataviciute Dovn
Development Officer: Grace McEvoy