The Past is Another Country: Culture Night

I am truly sorry about the miss-use of  that quotation in the title and have no excuse except that it just popped into my head and it seemed a shame to waste it. Just for the record, I have not yet actually begun to read The Go-Between and am still reading Bring up the Bodies. Anne Boleyn’s downfall is edging closer as I write so be prepared for copious amounts of bloodletting. And now on to a snapshot of our Culture Night’s activity…

As I said in my last piece, I was itching to get out and about to catch up with a few as yet unvisited cultural venues. At risk of sounding rather like a cultural box ticker, I did manage to cross three places off my list of ‘I must it do sometime’ activities. My brochure was a mass of ticks by Friday evening so I knew that there would be no hope of doing everything on my list. As it turned out, the first port of call for my fellow culture vulture and I was a late entrant to the event, not even mentioned in the brochure (though listed on the website) so that counts as a bonus point.

Assembly House

Dublin City Assembly House

Our bonus venue then, was the former City Assembly House in South William Street, which is due for a restoration programme by the Irish Georgian Society in partnership with Dublin City Council. I have long wanted to have a peek inside the elegant looking building but have never seen it open. Sadly, the interior fabric desperately needs attention from some dedicated craftspeople to restore its former glory. According to IGS’s literature, the group is looking to raise a staggering €2,000,000 to finance the restoration. When finished, the building will be the headquarters of the IGS and is also to be restored to its original function as a venue for exhibitions and other cultural events. The plan is to have the restoration completed in time for the building’s 250th anniversary.

Abandoned Mansions

Tarquin Blake’s first volume

The building dates from 1765 and was the first purpose-built public exhibition gallery in Ireland. Wandering around the still gracious rooms, we could mentally step back in time and imagine how they must have looked. The double height octagonal exhibition room (once the city assembly’s meeting room) featured a collection of Tarquin Blake’s photographs of abandoned mansions of Ireland. He has recently brought out a second volume of images published by The Collins Press (see the illustration taken from the publisher’s site). It seemed strangely apposite to be viewing pictures of ruined buildings in this venue, which while not a ruin itself, clearly needs the planned intervention to prevent it becoming one. These images of ruined mansions and castles attest to a past that was indeed a very different place. Some of the mansions simply fell into disuse and became ruined while others were actively destroyed. Either way, looking at the pictures produces very mixed emotions. The owners of these houses lived very privileged and protected lives unlike the vast majority of people. Having said that, the house would have been a source of employment in the area and was a whole community in itself.

Abandoned Mansions II

More brilliant images…

I will follow the restoration process of the City Assembly House with interest and I hope one day to stroll around an exhibition in the finished rooms. If anyone is interested in the Irish Georgian Society’s activities, follow the link here and to check out Tarquin Blake’s gorgeous books click here.

And now, I’m off to read for a while…let me know what you’re reading at the moment!


2 comments on “The Past is Another Country: Culture Night

  1. […] Trust. This was taking a second bite of the cherry as it were, as we had recently been touring Dublin’s cultural hotspots for Culture Night. On that occasion, we missed the townhouse due to lack of time. On Saturday […]


  2. […] I asked Sarah to talk to us about the background to her novel and about the research that underpinned the novel. Like me, Sarah admits to a fascination with the life and history of the big country house. When we chatted last week, we talked a little about this, mentioning the brilliant Abandoned Mansions series of books by Tarquin Blake (see previous post). […]


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