NUIM Department of Geography Seminar Series, 4.15-5.00pm  3 October 2013, Rocque Lab, Rhetoric House, NUI Maynooth

Meanwhile Spaces and Pop Up Parks: Dublin’s Granby Park as Urban Experiment

Karla Healion, Upstart Artistic Collaborative

Niamh Moore-Cherry, UCD Geography

Stephen Rigney, NUIM Geography

Karen E. Till, NUIM Geography

Discussant and Chair: Cian O’Callaghan, NUIM Geography

Upstart, a non-profit voluntary arts collective, recently transformed a vacant site on Dominick Street in north Dublin into an urban ‘pop-up park’. By transforming a vacant site into a place of creativity and community engagement, Granby Park stimulates us to think differently about familiar urban environments for temporary and longer-term uses. Panellists will discuss the Granby Park initiative and its impacts on the landscapes of Dublin. In the context of the ongoing economic crisis, they will discuss the emergence of ‘meanwhile space’ and ‘pop up parks’ – the use of and occupation by artists, communities and volunteer sector of empty commercial spaces through short-notice free lets – locally and internationally. Granby Park challenges the dynamics of uneven development in the city, located the ownership of Ireland’s ‘toxic bank’ NAMA, which houses impaired property loans. At the same time, critics argue that such arrangements streamline austerity, normalise the precarity of employment, and support the interests of property owners over those of the community/voluntary sector.  As an urban experiment, Granby Park therefore raises interesting and important questions:

  • How can creative interventions in the urban realm shape people’s perceptions of the city and stimulate new directions in policy?
  • Do ‘meanwhile spaces’ challenge neoliberal approaches to property and development?
  • How does the experience of Granby Park intersect with ongoing planning and artistic debates about the (re)use of ‘derelict spaces’ and ‘brownfield sites’ in the city?
  • In what ways does Granby Park succeed as an artistic urban project? Has the project been more successful in some areas over others? What lessons can be learned?
  • What role should creative interventions play in involving local communities to shape environments and policies in their neighborhoods, and to what extend are these successful?


Karla Helion is a core member of the Upstart artistic collaborative. She has worked for national media outlets and has co-directed a women’s collective. Her interests include social justice, feminism & grass roots activism.

Niamh Moore-Cherry is an urban geographer whose research examines brownfield regeneration, sustainable development and the role of the public sector in urban regeneration in Ireland.

Stephen Rigney is a PhD student in the Department of Geography at NUIM. He is currently involved in a research project that aims to map derelict and vacant spaces around Dublin’s north inner city.

Karen E. Till is a cultural geographer at NUIM and director of the Space&Place Research Collaborative. Her book in progress, Interim Spaces, explores artistic interventions of redundant spaces in Berlin.

Cian O’Callaghan’s research connects urban economy and governance with practices of everyday urban life. His work examines the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger on Irish cities, including through ‘ghost estates’.