Granby-Park1

Granby Park, a pop up park created on a vacant site on Domenick Street in Dublin’s north inner city, has been in operation since 22 August and will run until 22 September.  The initiative incorporates a temporary space wherein “there will be free arts events, outdoor cinema & theatre performances, live music, educational activities and a pop-up café open to the public”.  Thus far, the reception has been warm and the park has proved popular amongst a diverse array of the city’s inhabitants.

Whilst temporary uses of vacant spaces can be a very positive way of breathing life into otherwise underutilised sites, the pop up phenomenon also raises a series of pertinent questions. These include concerns about the long term impacts that such initiatives might have on derelict sites and to what extent the structural features of urban property development are transformed through these incursions.

Rather than trying to offer my own perspective here, I want instead to point readers to two other pieces, both broadly supportive of the Granby Park initiative but offering diverging perspectives on the longer term impacts.

Gerry Kearns from the Geography Department in NUI Maynooth sees progressive potential in making creative use of vacant spaces in the interim of the downturn.

Mick Byrne and Patrick Bresnihan of the Provisional University raises some cautions about who will reap the long term benefits (longer piece here).

Cian O’Callaghan

Gary, Indiana in the USA has a population around 100,000 and practically no jobs or services. It is the recipient of Obama’s stimulus package to resuscitate the economy. A report on BBC 2 last night looked at the city to examine the impacts of recent economic policy in the US. Watch an excerpt and read more here.

Gary is one third poor, 84% African American, and has seen its population halve over the past three decades. If crime, as the official figures suggest, has recently dropped off then – say the critics – that is because population flight from the city is bigger than the census figures show.

In Ireland, we don’t have ghost towns like Gary yet. If we get out-migration then we might do in a few places as oversupply decay and other buildings are vacated as people leave. However the size of the country will probably mitigate the stark neglect experienced in many areas of the US (the Ozark Mountain region depicted in Debra Granik’s recently released film Winter’s Bone offers another example). Nevertheless, Gary is a bleak vision of uneven development under capitalism.

Cian O’ Callaghan