le cool publisher Michael McDermott shoots the breeze with Conor Fox about how Dublin’s arts scene is evolving and why students should engage with it
With over 15,500 subscribers, it’s arguable that le cool is the definitive guide to what’s happening in the city on any given day (apart from The Siren of course) “revealing what is worthwhile and the things that you really should not miss.” Publisher of the weekly online magazine Michael McDermott strongly believes Dublin’s art scene is thriving and not to be ignored on the global stage.
“On the grand scheme of things, Dublin isn’t New York, it’s not London, it’s not Paris; [Dublin] doesn’t have that grandiose scalability of a city which gives it so much added extra to it,” acknowledges McDermott, “but it thrives and I think it’s always proven it stands head over heels.” He points out that Ireland is recognised worldwide for producing great writers and musicians – “it punches above its weight.”
The crash of the Celtic Tiger has affected the arts just as much as any other sector, grants being less readily available and often only for those who have already established themselves as big players in the scene. McDermott feels this has had a positive rather than a negative effect on Dublin’s output with the exciting emergence of a DIY culture which isn’t relying on or driven by arts council grants. “People are doing it off their own bat but are also doing it in a collaborative barter sort of way so they’re trading skills and getting stuff off the ground”.
This is particularly true for students and young people who have never had the opportunity of receiving a grant, “it’s all about connections and networks and supporting each other”. It’s allowing for a greater freedom of thought and creative expression with events happening “out of a necessity to make the city relevant and vibrant for themselves and for their friends … producing something that will entertain themselves and their friends and will hopefully reach a wider audience.”
The shift towards work produced for the individual rather than for the masses is a change McDermott feels should be recognised on a greater sphere – particularly when it comes to the financing of it. He points to the ‘Your Country, Your Call’ competition as a media and PR driven campaign which he feels ultimately achieved nothing. “There must have been the guts of a million spent on it and instead of a million I would see that as two hundred five grand: what could have been done if two hundred different companies had been given five grand to get their seed idea off the ground?” McDermott accepts that it’s a lot easier to sell a concept to the media if there’s a “big grandiose scale of idea” but argues “bigger isn’t always better”.
“The frustrating thing is that the really great people don’t want a lot of money they just want the support or recognition and it’s not there”.
As for how students can get involved in Dublin’s art scene? “Just start somewhere.”
Extolling the virtues of volunteering, McDermott explains that “you gotta start without a sense of expectation but with a sense of what you can offer and that could be volunteering for [festivals] … there are people out there looking for students all the time and once you get your foothold in there then you start making connections, then you start networking and you realise the world is bigger than the bubble you live within”.
Bringing him back to his point on how important collaboration is he states that “everybody else is doing it, maybe at a more advanced scale or a more connected scale but you’re all ultimately trying to achieve the same thing; whether it’s putting on a theatre show in college or on the Abbey.” Pointing at how ThisIsPopBaby emerged from Dublin youth theatre McDermott feels that “it all builds as a cache of experience.”
“Do something as opposed to thinking about it, or expecting it arrive to you. Be proactive.”