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A ‘forgotten’ river of Dublin is being paid tribute to this week

Here’s your chance to get to know the river better – in a pretty unusual way.

WHEN YOU THINK of Dublin and rivers, of course you think of the River Liffey.

But there’s another river in the city, the River Tolka, that often floats by unappreciated. It’s one of the capital’s three main rivers (the others being the aforementioned Liffey, and the Dodder), and it’s the second largest river in Dublin.

Rising in Co Meath, the Tolka enters Dublin Bay between East Wall and Clontarf. Along its route lie a number parks, like Tolka Valley Park, and the Botanic Gardens.

Brought to life

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Now the Tolka is being brought to life and given a little bit of extra loving through Tolka Nights, a series of public art interactive events. Five artists from the worlds of sound, film, and performance have all worked together to bring out different sides of the River Tolka.

The events begin tonight at 7pm, when they hold a pub quiz on the Tolka at the Grasshopper Inn in Clonee, Co Meath. There, their combined newfound knowledge of the river will be funnelled into a series of questions, combined with some of their work being shown, and foraged food available for visitors to nibble on.

On Friday at 8pm, they will welcome people to Tolka Valley Park, in a part of the park near Blanchardstown, for screenings and live performances.

The three days will culminate in a symposium and performance from 6pm at the Botanic Gardens on Saturday.

Matt Green, Sven Anderson, John D’Arcy, Jennie Guy, Conan McIvor and Stuart Sloan are the artists charged with creating art around the River Tolka.

Sloan said that in his work, he explored how humans affected the river – through industrial and agricultural work, for example. He also found out about the positive aspects to the river, like salmon coming back and flooding being less frequent.

McIvor’s interest lies with history and mythology:

As many facts as you find out, they are equal to the number of other sources that are quite contradictory. It seems mysterious in a lot of ways. There are a lot of different reports and different documentations over the years, which can contradict each other.

Anderson added: “There’s also this idea of the river as a space that everybody can come to and have their own perception of it thanks to other places, places you’ve been before.” He worked with Jenny Guy on a film about the river.

Green said that they met people from the different communities who are connected with the river; from people from community centres and people knowledgeable of wildlife, to those working in the industry on the river.

“I generally found that when we spoke about the project, everyone was really positive,” he said.

Awareness

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But he also discovered that there can be a lack of awareness of the river – down to people not even knowing what it’s called. “Even online, there is no representation of the river,” he pointed out. It’s hoped that this will be rectified with the Tolka Nights website.

The hope is that Tolka Nights will help unite the people who use the river, most of whom don’t know each other. “It’s nice to try to have a communal moment,” said Andersen.

Bringing people to places like underused spaces in Tolka Valley Park is also a way of helping people get to know an area they might previously have never visited.

The artists all say they’ve walked away with a new sense of respect for the River Tolka, and a new connection with it.

And, they hope, so will those who attend any of the events during Tolka Nights.

All events are free and open to the public but require booking. To book a place please visitwww.tolkanights.com. Tolka Nights was commissioned under the Per Cent for Art Scheme. This commission is supported by the Office of Public Works (OPW), Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Meath County Council, and Create. 

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