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Paddy’s Day should be about celebrating our culture and creativity – without getting locked

Too much focus is placed on drinking in Ireland, especially on St Patrick’s Day, and people want an alternative.

I DON’T KNOW about you but I avoid town on Paddy’s Day. My tradition has been to stick to a friend’s house or our local pub when the city centre descends into chaos after the parade. The drink-fuelled messiness is the darker side of our national holiday. It’s the drunk Dr Jekyll to an otherwise charming Mr Hyde.

Along with our traditions of digging out all shades of green clothes, sporting limp brooches of shamrock leaves, and speaking the cupla focal, on March 17th mayhem is the norm. As a Dubliner, you either participate or avoid the city centre at all costs. But, surely Paddy’s Day should be about getting together in the city to celebrate our heritage, culture and creativity without getting locked?

An alternative to the pub

This is the idea behind Paddy’s Day Unlocked, which is intended to have a touch of irony and boldness. The ‘Unlocked’ concept is key because it refers to our two important intentions at Happenings, an events initiative that provides people with an alternative to pub-based entertainment.

One element is that, rather than closing the pubs or creating obstacles to boozing in attempts to control behaviour (thirsty partygoers will find a way), Happenings believe there’s a need for attractive alternatives to getting hammered. We want to keep families in the city centre after the parade, and let visitors see that we’re not all about getting locked. Don’t fret though, we’re not anti-booze, sure we love a good party! We’re just shifting the focus from pints to people, from the negative to the positive, and from the chaos to the culture.

The Ireland we want to celebrate

Another key aspect of the “Unlocked” concept is that it gives us a chance to show off local legends that are unlocking Ireland’s potential as a vibrant place for creativity and inspiration. St Patrick’s Day is our national holiday, so why not use this opportunity to shout about the exciting people, projects and businesses in contemporary Ireland to spread these good news stories?

Nialler9, The Happy Pear, Headstrong, Tonnta, Ensemble Eriu, Jinx Lennon, Sinead White, Hare Squead, Damn Fine Print, Boltz Sustainability, Paper Dolls – these are the locals that will delight us this Paddy’s Day. This is the Dublin that we want to focus on. This is the Ireland that we want to celebrate.

Changing our thinking on consumption 

Going a little deeper, at Happenings we’re keen to reframe the idea of consumption. The current model is to consume products – be it pints, technology, clothes, food, information, ice creams or sweets – and to consume them with ferocity. All of these things are wonderful, but it’s the addictive nature of how we’re encouraged to do it that is the problem. Get it all into you as fast and as furiously as possible with no end in sight!

We believe, as many people do, that we need to move to a more interconnected, experiential model of consumption and do it together. None of this is our idea, there’s nothing new in any of it, and we are just another group of active citizens who are making it happen.

Reclaiming public spaces

Paddy’s Day Unlocked is only the first of many events to follow in 2015. We’re busy scheming up fun alternatives and meaningful events such as open air cinema, yoga classes in the park, and tons more sneaky surprises, as an excuse to get hundreds of happy Happeners in our beautiful public space in Dublin, and across Ireland.

Create always, have fun, be nice. That’s our plan for Paddy’s Day, and for Happenings 2015. We encourage people to get out there and do the same!

Peter O’Brien is the Founder of Happenings, a community-based events initiative focused on providing an exciting alternative to pub based entertainment in public spaces. 

Happenings animate public space with a range spontaneous and meaningful, cultural event for all ages. When the weather is fine we give 36 hours notice. So sign up for sunny alerts at

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