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Dublin: 15 °C Monday 3 August, 2020

A group of volunteers have helped to transform Cork city's streets

When Eoghan Ryan returned to Cork from Australia, he was shocked at the state of some streets – and then he decided to do something about it.

THIS FRIDAY – 16 September - Culture Night takes place across the island of Ireland. 

There will be a wealth of events taking place across towns, villages and cities, from gallery openings to talks. This week, we’ll be highlighting some of the more unusual happenings.

Reimagine Cork is a project in Cork city which has been rejuvenating the streets in and around the North Main Street area. A team of volunteers have been engaging with locals and traders to clean and paint walls, add artwork and spruce up neglected areas. On Culture Night, a brochure detailing a special trail around this area will be available. Eoghan Ryan of Reimagine Cork explains how the project came about. 

“We picked up a bucket and sponge and got stuck in”

2015-08-30_20.42.46 Before and after Source: Reimagine Cork

I returned home in 2014 after eight years away – I got a pretty big shock walking around the city and wanted to do something about it.

Alasdair Fitzpatrick was a proud Corkman who also felt the city didn’t celebrate its proud history enough.

We had a shared vision to improve the visual appearance of the city whilst also telling its story a bit better. In particular, the historic heart of Cork City (North and South Main Street), was being forgotten about. We picked up a bucket and sponge and just got stuck in.

We promised ourselves we’d focus on action and that every project we would tackle would aim to promote Cork’s history, heroes, and humour.


2015-08-12_23.51.03 Source: Reimagine Cork

We didn’t base it on any particular model. We do obviously take inspiration from elsewhere, whether it’s suggestions from people on social media or something we’ve seen online or abroad.

The traffic light boxes in Dublin would be a prime example. We took this brilliant initiative and put our own twist on it.

People from all walks of life volunteer with us, but they’re mainly between the ages of 20 – 40. All are bound by a real sense of positivity and willingness to improve the city’s appearance.

2015-06-18_23.58.17 Source: Reimagine Cork

To get it off the ground it was self funded. I think the early projects proved we were in it for the right reasons and we began to get some funding from Cork City Council on a project-by-project basis.

Local businesses have since been getting in touch to fund various ideas that we have and, more importantly, get their staff directly involved.

Our biggest achievement without doubt has been the positive response from people. Nothing spurs us on more than a bit of encouragement or sense that we’re providing something that people are proud of.

Feedback like: “I used to avoid Coleman’s Lane and now I go out of my way to include it on my walk to work” can only act as confirmation we’re doing something positive for the community.

Looking ahead

2015-06-16_19.25.15 Source: Reimagine Cork

We’ve big plans for the future but it’s dependent on a consistent line of funding.

I think we’ve developed a pretty reliable and transparent model that could be easily transferable to other parts of the city.

Community-led action is at its core. Everyone is in for the right reasons and that’s infectious.

Personally I’d love for us to facilitate projects that have three things – funding (core funding and match funding from a local business), employee involvement, and a partnering organisation that tackles a social issue.

2016-04-23_16.52.04 A 64-feet mural researched and painted by the pupils of the Cork Educate Together National School on Grattan Street. Source: Reimagine Cork

To date the projects we’ve completed with Life Centre, Cope Foundation, and SHINE have been the most rewarding because we’re involving the often forgotten members of society in a fun and engaging way.

The response has been really heartening. It was very much ‘learn by doing’ at the beginning but thankfully the local community have been happy and most importantly have got involved in a really positive way.

We’re very fortunate to have only had three incidents of vandalism over two years across 35 projects. We hope this is a sign that people appreciate what we’re trying to achieve.

We all love Cork but it’s certainly not looking that way after a tough few years resulting in widespread dereliction. There’s a unique chance for everyone to reimagine the kind of city they feel best reflects Corkonians.

Reimagine Cork brochures are available from St Peter’s (formerly Cork Vision Centre) on Culture Night

Read all of our Culture Night coverage>

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