Dublin City Council and our national government have struggled in recent years to regulate the capital’s widespread shortcomings in healthcare and housing. Along with these controversies, the recent closures of venues like District 8 and Hangar signify that a crisis of culture is also heading for the capital city. District 8, at the Tivoli theatre, will bring down the curtain for good on the 26th of January with a final, farewell weekend send-off. Headlined by Northern Irish hero Ejeca, the event will feature a diverse array of Irish DJs and District 8 stalwarts. This size of the event is no novel experience for the organisers of the Liberties’ venue which has attracted some of the world’s biggest acts over the years such as Groove Armada, Ben Klock, Daniel Avery and Dimitri from Paris.
Hangar too, until its closure in May 2018, was a vital resource in the local Dublin music ecosystem, giving stages to young artists like Kettama, Bobby Analog and DoubleU DJs. Prominent performances teamed with diverse and memorable club nights gave Hangar a large presence in the Dublin nightlife scene, all the while showcasing a multitude of exciting Irish talent. Hangar could catapult young artists, often firing them onto the stages of international festivals and larger venues like District 8.
Electronic and Dance music’s popularity and cultural significance, as a young, DIY artform has solidified over recent years. All over your Snapchat stories are videos of local lads DJing someone’s house party, at a kitchen table in someone’s gaff. Life Festival, BD Festival and Techworks are hugely popular festivals, cemented in the Irish musical psyche more than ever before.
So why are these crucial music venues, for this thriving, wide-spread music scene, closing down?
Both venues are being scrapped to make way for large scale, exclusive aparthotels and modern amenities. After much back and forth regarding the demolition of the Tivoli/District 8 cultural and art space, An Bórd Pleanála gave the proposal the go-ahead, stating the new development ‘would not seriously injure the amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity and would not adversely affect the setting of protected structures’.
What a load of bollocks.
Immediate, local amenities may not be ‘injured’ by the construction of this luxury accommodation, but it does drive a knife straight into the heart of the Irish music scene.
Along with the backlash of some local Dublin councillors, the closure of venues like these asks serious questions about the planning commission’s understanding of these venues and of their importance to the capital city.
The wilful abandon with which the council has treated these local assets should not be underestimated as a rapid decline in cultural spaces teamed with insufficient housing regulation has proved to signal a massive detriment to other international cities. An unfortunate example of this being the birthplace of modern techno music, Detroit, a seriously damaged city since declaring bankruptcy in 2013. Detroit formerly acted as a shining beacon of dance and electronic music among the predominantly hip-hop focused North America. Detroit’s musical spark has dimmed hugely in recent years. Financial collapse contributing largely to the city’s musical reproach and creative decline.
The closure of the Tivoli theatre space will make way for a new 5 storey aparthotel, along with new amenities for gym space, retail properties and a cultural square. High-rent spaces like these are the last thing the city of Dublin needs. A new FLYEfit Gym will not attract world-renowned DJs to the capital. A few new artisan coffee shops will not display the wealth of young musical talent which the Irish music scene has to offer. Gradually taking away these venues will only serve to hamper and destroy a rapidly growing environment which provides a huge outlet to the Irish population.
This is a question of values versus interests. It is in the interest of Dublin council to create further tourist accommodation and ‘rejuvenate’ the inner city areas of Dublin like has been seen in places like Smithfield and Phibsborough. Now, like many young people, I love springing for a carefully-crafted cappuccino if I have the cash in my pocket but I also recognise that the value of these huge cultural landmarks is greater than any need for anyone’s chai latte. Dublin is being over-saturated with these types of facilities.
Venues like the Tivoli theatre and Hangar at Andrew’s Lane theatre are highly valued by Irish people and tourists, unlike any aparthotel or gym that could ever be built where they are. They provide a different type of service. Local cultural hubs, attracting world-renowned artists, are hugely important to the local people and should not be so easily kicked to the side to make way for so-called modern developments. An Bórd Pleanála and the local council have pursued the immediate economic and social benefits which these large-scale constructions will provide. However, these buildings will only serve to increase rent-prices in an area already in desperate need of more immediate public housing and remove a huge cultural and musical draw and amenity to the locality and wider city.
Are these closures a sign of things to come for Dublin? Maybe a nice new leisure centre will soon replace the Bernard Shaw? Or a nice new block of luxury flats right down by the Liffey-side in place of Workman’s? It seems there are no actual barriers to this display of mindless development.
The loss of District 8 at the Tivoli and the Hangar event space at Andrew’s Lane should not be swept under Dulin Council’s large gentrifying carpet. While the organisers of both venues have stated that these nights will live on in a new form and in new premises, the slow death of historic, seminal music venues for Dublin city is an outrage.
Not every music fan likes techno, house and electronic style dance music, and they shouldn’t, music culture should be diverse. This diversity should, however, be provided for. All different styles of music should flourish in the capital. Dublin needs venues where young artists of all genres and backgrounds can cut their teeth and exhibit their art. The powers that be do not seem to understand that Dublin needs a dynamic, active musical scene to satisfy its locals and further its progression as a world city of culture. We should be encouraging widespread musical creation in the capital, not limiting its possibilities or preventing its development.
By Euan Lindsay – Music Writer