Category Archives: Dublin looking pretty

Pictures at an Exhibition

Part One: 12 Henrietta Street

A couple of weeks ago I styled the poster for the Opera Theatre Company’s upcoming production of Don Giovanni. Starring David Kempster, Kip Carroll shot the photos, and the location was number 12 Henrietta Street.


The Heritage Council describes Henrietta Street as “one of the first and finest planned Georgian streets in Dublin” and it served as a blueprint for much of Georgian Dublin as we now know it.

Number 12 was built in 1730 on a street so grand that, by 1792, it housed one archbishop; two bishops; four peers and four MPs.

Photo: William Murphy

Photo: William Murphy

Following the enactment of the Act of Union in 1801, (ie: The dissolution of the Irish Parliament) many of the politically significant residents of Dublin would move to London to take their seats in the new Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland. The socially significant went with.

Whole streets of grand Georgian dwellings were left in the hands of agents. House prices plummeted and the slum landlords cashed in, at a time when famine-stricken families were arriving into the city in droves, looking for work and a place to live.

By the 1890s many houses on Henrietta Street had been bought by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alderman Joseph M. Meade.

Under his direction the houses were divided up into the maximum possible number of tenement rooms.

The 1901 census records 11 separate dwellings within number 12, occupied by 73 people, ranging in ages from 1 to 76. These were for the most part semi-skilled and skilled workers: Carpenters, Iron Roofers, French Polishers and Upholsterers, Bridle Stitchers, one ex-Lancashire Fusilier, one 70-year old Nurse.


The house still bears the scars of the many divisions and sub-divisions required to provide accommodation to so many people.

Much of the restoration has involved stripping back those modifications, and allowing the bones of the house to be seen again.

Photo: Leona Lee Cully

Photo: Leona Lee Cully

Ian Lumley, the owner, and Built Environment & Heritage Officer for An Taisce, Ireland’s National Trust, rents out the house to film crews and for photo shoots and that money then gets ploughed back in to restoration. As it stands – made safe but still some distance from its original beauty – it is a very lovely, very photogenic space.


Photo: Ian Lumley

Photo: Ian Lumley

Beauty only goes so far, though. Sanitation was non-existent. Those stunning high ceilings and huge windows make the place a bitch to heat, the house becomes damp, maybe you lose a few roof tiles in a storm and, without constant maintenance, a building like this starts to crumble.

In 1913 seven people were killed when two tenement houses on Church Street collapsed.

In 1963 two people were killed when a four-storey house collapsed on Bolton Street. Ten days later another two people died when two buildings on Fenian Street collapsed. The solution?

Headline from Irish Independent, July 1963

Headline from Irish Independent, July 1963

And now here we are in 2015. Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose.



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Filed under Architecture, Dublin looking pretty, History

The God of Small Things


There’s an exhibition on right now in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto that I would love to see. Patti Smith, punk-poet/rock goddess started out as a visual artist, and Camera Solo features around 70 of her black-and-white gelatin silver prints created from photos taken over the years with a vintage Land Polaroid camera.

The photos are grainy and impressionistic and reminded me of nothing more than my post-adolescent photography phase, a year-long homage to Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and the fashion photography of Deborah Turbeville. By which I mean, and not in a pejorative sense, elegiac atmosphere=good, technical skill=also good but really, not always necessary.


In using such an old camera Patti Smith accepts the accidental. In an interview with CBC News Sophie Hackett, Assistant Curator of Photography at the AGO, talks about a “Totally accidental double exposure” of Carlo Molino’s bedroom “Overlaid with the pattern of iridescent leopard wallpaper along with some butterfly specimens that he had done, so it emanates like a dream coming up from the bed”.


What emanates most clearly is her fandom. Her photos fetishise the most humble possessions of her idols so Rimbaud’s cutlery somehow becomes more fork and spoon than any fork and spoon since. Bolano’s chair resonates with…something. Mapplethorpe’s slippers are simply tragic. By focusing on the everyday, Smith’s photos give us pause. I’m not entirely sure if they give us any fresh insight into the lives of their owners, any more than a reliquary tells us anything about the life of a saint. It is the tenderness with which they are executed that is telling, and it is their meditation on the private and the quotidian that appeals to me.


My focus recently has undergone a radical shift. Having been stupidly (gratefully) busy for the last six months of 2012 I am now mostly at home seeing things I haven’t noticed in months. And in the contraction of my exterior world I feel an expansion within.


Morning light in my apartment


The Lidl €5 bouquet


Silk Bias Cut Lingerie I’ve made myself, as intellectual exercise and treat for the senses


Rhubarb that Paddy, the last tenant but one, planted outside the bedroom window


Photo 1 (of Patti Smith) from

Photos 2, 3 & 4 (by Patti Smith) from

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Filed under Dublin looking pretty, Photography, Poster Art, Spring, Unemployment

December 1991 by David Hare



She drove me to Trouville in her black Volkswagen droptop
Leaving Paris early by the Peripherique and getting there by noon
There was frost even on the inside of the slanted back window
And the laughable so-called heater pretty soon

Gave out. The tyres rocked on the brittle brown concrete.
The car shook. The frozen air thickened like a knife,
Pellucid, and we left a trail of hot breath through Northern France.
As we travelled I thought “New life.”

New life. Deauville went by, with its curious timbered medieval
Travesty of a hotel. Thank God we’re not lunching there.
We prefer to head for white-tiled, cheap and cheerful,
A neon-lit, salty lunch at Les Vapeurs where

Our idea of what is good, pithy little peppered shrimp and oysters,
Dredged from the bed, sole, chips, beer, coincided. “Oh this is what she likes.”
The mud-brown beach stretching away beyond
And the silver sea motionless, trapped, unchanging, painted; estuaries, dykes

Small boats, dredgers, abandoned, the weather
Too raw for anyone, however calloused by experience, to pass red hands over rope.
This is the place, bracing then, where I find what it turns out I’ve been looking for,
By the sand, by the water, the what-you-don’t-even-know-you’re- missing: hope.


Happy New Year everybody!

Clodagh x

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Filed under Dublin looking pretty, January, Poetry, Reading

The Gate’s Ghosts

The Dublin Gate Theatre Studio was founded by Hilton Edwards and Mícheál Mac Liammoir in 1928 with a showing of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt at the Peacock Theatre and moved to its present home, part of the Georgian era Rotunda Hospital complex, opening with Goethe’s Faust in 1930.

A common thread (pun intended) in all the work I do is the disconnect between a final, polished product that the public sees, and the work that goes into creating that illusion and the places in which that work is done. ‘Behind the scenes’ can be a pretty ramshackle place.

The Gate is no exception: While the public areas are very elegant and the new extension is swoon inducingly lovely, other parts of the theatre are exhausted. But this is where the ghosts live and everyday treasures are created or unearthed.

I once found a small mirror in the back of a cupboard in a disused convent. It was rectangular, with a thin gold coloured frame and it still had a Woolworth’s price tag on the back. I can barely remember the film I was working on, but I remember wondering who had owned and hidden the mirror. Was she pretty? Did she miss that part of her life, a time when her vanity seemed natural, not a sin?

The Gate, like most theatres, has its ghosts. Apparently there’s one called The Grey Lady who is a benevolent presence, although I’d still rather not meet her.

Other ghosts take more tangible form in the corridor that leads from Wardrobe to a fire escape that overlooks one of the Rotunda Hospital car parks.

Many of these posters haven’t been archived. These are the originals and the only copies. To try to remove them would damage them, to leave them where they are is damaging them.  If you look closely you can see that they’ve been painted around or as below, have had electrical work superimposed.

There are plans to reproduce them however and hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.

While the transience of live performance can seem terribly romantic the memory of these productions is worth preserving, however imperfectly.

Credits: Photo 1 from Scott Tallon Walker Architects

Photo 2 from

Photo 3 from Ian Grundy‘s Flickr Photostream. (Many thanks Ian)

All other photos by me.

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Filed under Dublin looking pretty, History, Illustration, Poster Art, Theatre

After Work

Some days after work I go for a swim, and some days after work I go to The Octagon Bar in The Clarence Hotel & have a glass of iced water and a Vodka Martini with a twist. Just the one, mind.

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Filed under Clarence Hotel, Dublin looking pretty, Vodka Martini

>Frozen Music


I was lucky enough recently to work backstage at The Scottish Opera’s touring production of La Boheme starring Celine Byrne. While I am vaguely predisposed to opera I don’t really know a huge amount about it so I wont embarrass myself by attempting a review. Plus, as a dresser, even if I had been able to hear all of it I couldn’t really see the stage from where I was standing backstage.

What I did hear and see was beautiful, kudos all round, but the best bit about my week was definitely the ‘commute’ – a 30 min walk – culminating in Daniel Libeskind’s beautiful Grand Canal Theatre.

Walking from Portobello Bridge to Grand Canal Square along the Grand Canal you move from a small-scale world, which is old and bucolic and lush, through to this great opening out of sky and water.

From this...

From this…

...And this...

…And this…

...Through here...

…Through here…

...Past this...

…Past this…

The theatre is jagged and complicated, like an origami crane. It is deeply assertive, deeply dynamic in its angles, in its sheer audacity.

The architectural concept of the theatre is based on stages: the stage of the theatre itself, the stage of the piazza, and the stage of the multiple level theatre lobby above the piazza. How this translates in execution can be seen from the photos below.

However, this didn’t immediately strike me as its primary intent. What I loved about the theatre was how ephemeral it looked in certain lights.

Libeskind has harnessed the reflections in the glass frontage of the theatre, bouncing images of itself back on itself and reflecting and refracting the buildings surrounding it. He has made something more shimmering than solid, something that interacts, is almost dependent on its environment.

Around the corner from the theatre

Around the corner from the theatre

The Convention Centre across the river

The Convention Centre visible across the river

Stage Door side of the theatre

Stage Door side of the theatre

Looking toward the piazza

Looking toward the piazza

Angling into the sky

Grand Canal evening

Grand Canal evening

Had I been asked to define its concept on first viewing I would have talked about the parallel between the constantly shifting light and the fleeting moment that is live performance, whether that be rock, theatre or opera.

Architecture is, as the cliché goes, frozen music…

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Filed under Architecture, Daniel Libeskind, Dublin looking pretty, Grand Canal Square