Words: Emily Mullen
“We want the focus to be on the space, the use of the space and how people interact with that”
Far too often, we are outraged. Outraged about chains opening up and pushing out independent companies, outraged at officials fencing off or ignoring public outcry for more facilities, outraged at the closure and ultimate commodification of our most beloved spaces. We’ve all sat with this outrage far too often, letting ourselves get pent up with it, lashing out on social media or at poor unfortunates after a few. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the outrage, it’s an acknowledgement that things are flawed and should be improved. But it’s the manner in which you channel that outrage that can be the difference between things changing and things staying the same.
Not waiting for institutions, councils or organisations to sort their area out, a gang of friends decided to change it themselves. Picking an abandoned car showroom and garage in Harold’s Cross that they had been passing by for years, they launched Mend. The team have transformed the space from a derelict eyesore into a space for the local community to inhabit.
The concept of community can be a term bandied about, but the team were keen to embed their project within the community. This meant the team engaged with nearby businesses with strong local links in their respective communities, Up At Brews and Pizza Truck Dublin who are now located in the food court. Space is being future utilised by showcasing the work of Dublin artists’ KAMBO and OranUltan in the interior of the showroom, attaching QR codes to allow visitors to view the artist’s work online. The team also worked closely with locals and neighbouring businesses in the area to make sure they were happy with the new project.
The team explained why it was important to work with the likes of Up At Brews, a coffee shop based down the road in Terenure and Pizza Truck Dublin which were previously based in Walkinstown, “getting those guys in and giving them a platform as opposed to bringing in a Pressup style vibe just to make a shit ton of money. These guys are putting the graft into their community they are trying to give them a place where people can meet and congregate.”
With a temporary site, little to no resources and very little financial backing, the team at Mend are hopeful that their project can be reproduced across the city. “There’s a lot of talk about community, culture and public spaces, but then oftentimes what that translates to is people going out gargling and giving out that spaces are being taken away,” the team said, “in our opinion, it’s like roll up your sleeves, go and try and identify a space be it a big one like the one we are in, or a small shop that’s been left vacant for whatever amount of years. Get together with a group of friends or people in your community and try and start something yourself,” the team told us.
“I think it’s super possible for groups of friends, colleagues, communities to actually have an impact on their area and to change the fabric and culture of it. So instead of complaining “ah there’s apartments going here” or “there’s a Starbucks going there” well if you actually want to counteract that you need to work at it, it’s not just going to pop up because people complain about it.”
The space that Mend are currently occupying is a temporary one, as the area has been earmarked for development. But the temporary nature of their project did not put them off, although they do acknowledge the apprehension that some may feel when considering starting a business on such a site, “people are oftentimes apprehensive about doing something because they don’t think there’s a lifespan in it or they won’t be able to make money, or they have to put money in and they have to try and get it back out and they are all reasonable and fair concerns but these are the realities of dealing with projects of this nature.”
But the path towards creating a similar space is as easy as how the team have outlined, “identify the people that own the building, speak with them, bring your ideas to them, talk them through how you intend to do what your doing and then try and make it happen.”
Using a bit of initiative, and some transient space, the team at Mend have avoided the barstool conversations and have actually created an amenity that gives back to the local community. With the pull of community links from local businesses, it’s hoped that space can be created which fosters some sense of place and reclaims a once derelict eyesore into a space for locals, if even for a short while until it’s turned into an apartment block.
You can find Mend off Kennilworth Park, in Harold’s Cross, follow them on Instagram for more information.
Elsewhere on District: George Feely, Kelly Doherty, R. Kitt & Sam Greenwood to play WigWam Livestream