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Dublin: 7°C Friday 3 December 2021

How a willow garden is helping these women 'reclaim' their local park

Fairview Park has been the scene of antisocial behaviour in recent years.

DublinsCultureConnects_FriendsofFairviewPark_Fairview_DublinNorthCentral_20_02_2018_PhotobyRuthMedjber Participants at the willow garden Source: Ruth Medjber/Dublin’s Culture Connects

A GARDEN WITH a difference is being created by a group of women in Dublin.

Members of an art class in Fairview and a craft group in Ballybough are meeting once a week in Fairview Park to handweave a willow garden there.

Architect Evelyn D’Arcy and the Newgrange Willow Weavers are helping the women create the garden, which will consist of several willow arches.

The project arose from Dublin’s Culture Connects’ Tea and Chats initiative, where some members of the group said the park had been a big part of their lives when they were younger but that they didn’t use it as often anymore.

DublinsCultureConnects_VisualArt_Fairview_DublinNorthCentral_23_01_2018_PhotobyRuthMedjber A planning meeting about the garden Source: Ruth Medjber/Dublin’s Culture Connects

They wanted to do something that made the park feel like “their place” again.

Participant Evelyn Healy, who leads a local arts and craft group in Ballybough, said the project was a way for local people to reclaim the park, which has been the scene of antisocial behaviour in recent years.

“A lot of the women grew up in the area or moved to the area and raised their children there. Many of them brought their children to the park or used to play in it themselves when they were younger.

“As they got older there was an issue with bad behavior, and recreational drug taking and all that was going on. Some people felt vulnerable going into the park.”

DublinsCultureConnects_FriendsofFairviewPark_Fairview_DublinNorthCentral_20_02_2018_PhotobyRuthMedjber Women working on the willow garden Source: Ruth Medjber/Dublin’s Culture Connects

Healy said there’s a “great sense of community” among the women, who range in age from their 40s to their 80s.

“Everyone knows each other and knows the history of the area.”

Healy said local people feel safer walking through the park since a number of trees were cut down, meaning “if you walk through the park at any time of day you can be seen”.

‘This is my space’ 

The women involved in the project “feel very proud of it”, Healy said, and are looking forward to sharing the garden with their family and friends when it is launched on 24 March.

IMG_1202 Evelyn Healy and Trisha Kenny in Fairview Park Source: Ruth Medjber/Dublin’s Culture Connects

“They actually feel that the park is theirs again … It’s something that will be there for them to bring their grandchildren or children to.

They are going down to show people what they made, ‘This is my space, this is what I did.’ They have a real sense of pride that this is what we’ve done.

“It’s actually involving every generation, it’s for everyone, every age group.”

Healy said the garden project, as well as other initiatives such as a weekly 5km walk/run, is “getting the park back to itself again, which is fabulous”.

The garden project is one of several National Neighbourhood initiatives happening in communities around Dublin.

Read: ‘I spend three hours a day on a nebuliser, but exercise helps my mental health’

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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