Rhona Byrne with Ballymun Pigeon Club
Funded by the Arts Council Artist in the Community Scheme
In the 1960’s Dublin City Council embarked on a housing project, which would attempt to be an alternative to the tenement style housing that was historically prevalent in the city centre and the problems associated with it. The alternative consisted of single-family terraced houses, seven story apartment blocks and high-rise tower blocks that were located in Ballymun, on the periphery of Dublin’s north city suburbs. The building work was completed in 1967 and they are considered to be the only experiment in high-rise within the Republic of Ireland. Thirty years later it was decided, apart from social problems apparent in the area, that the buildings too were suffering structurally. In 1997, Dublin City Council drew up a plan to start demolishing the estate as a part of a ten-year regeneration project.
Influenced by this regeneration process, I became interested in how the lives of individuals and groups based in Ballymun would be affected on a personal level by this fundamental change. In particular I sought to find an opportunity to explore certain aspects that arose through this transition and a means by which I as an artist, could interact with the complex entities that make up this community on both a social and cultural level.
The homing instinct of a homing pigeon, its natural and basic instinct to gravitate towards a man made habitation fascinated me, along with a curiosity for the relationship between man and this incredible bird. Through my research I found that for many years pigeon racing has been an integral element to Ballymun. I found that it was common practice for residents to keep pigeon lofts on the balconies of the flats and that Ballymun had its own pigeon club which has been situated on the ground floor of the Shangan block of flats since the early 1970’s. I endeavored to make contact with this club and in May 2002 I was introduced to Tommy Nelson the secretary of Ballymun Pigeon Club. Tommy then introduced me to the members of the pigeon club and a project entitled home began the collaborative process of engagement.
From talking to the club members it became apparent that they were concerned about being allocated a new club within the regeneration scheme and one of my motivations became finding a way to communicate through a creative process the concerns of the pigeon club, that is, the uncertainty of being relocated as a club following the demolition of the block of flats they currently utilize and their need to strengthen the link between the club and its community.
Over the following eighteen months I met with and spoke to the residents of Ballymun and the members of the pigeon club to try and establish what their hopes were following the regeneration of the area. I decided that the best means to record these aspirations was to give out packs to the residents, which included background information on the project and a number of questions designed to attempt and to evoke open, individual responses to this time of change. For example, how is being relocated going to affect you? How do you hope that this time of change will benefit your life? The participants were made aware that these written wishes would be attached to the legs of homing pigeons and released as an event from the balconies of the flats.
This collaborative process culminated in an event entitled home which involved the release of 400 homing pigeons from the balconies of the Shangan block of flats in Ballymun on Saturday, 27 September 2003.The homing pigeons when released, carried the written wishes on their legs. By recording and liberating these wishes I wanted to facilitate the communication of the feelings of a community undergoing a period of geographical and emotional upheaval, bringing together individuals to create a response in a genuinely collaborative manner.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the collaborators involved in home. All the residents, and in particular the members of Ballymun Pigeon Club and I hope that through this project we have strengthened their links with the community and help to raise an awareness of the club as an integral element of the community.
© Rhona Byrne 04.04
Home the project and publication was funded by The Arts Council of Ireland: Artist in the Community Scheme managed by Create, Dublin City Council, Musgrave retail services, Lisney property, Sika Ireland and supported by Atelier David Smith and Dermott Byrne of Speedi Snaps.
‘home’ the publication was designed by Atelier David Smith and Oran Day
The publication ‘home’ was awarded A gold ICAD (Irish creative advertising and design) award 2004 And represented Ireland in the Art Directors Club Europe ACDE awards. 2004 And also won the ‘Irish print award’ for ‘Home’ the publication, printed by Wood Print Craft.2004.
Rhona Byrne was born and lives in Dublin Ireland, she graduated from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin in 1994 with an honours BFA in sculpture. Rhona employs varied media in her work – photography, video, sculpture, installation- and has initiated and produced event based collaborative and participatory art projects. Her work often responds to a particular place or situation, examining everyday existence and relationships to the urban environment as individuals and collectively, exploring the physical, emotional and cultural connections we have with our surroundings.
Selected exhibitions include 2006 :Nothing Happens. Gallery for One, Dublin; Here there and Otherwise Broadstone Gallery Dublin; Umbrella Project The LAB, Dublin; Concourse Dun laoighre, Dublin; 2005: Offside The Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery; Transformation, Flexible Art Network, Serbia Montenegro; Kliniczna, Poland; Art scene warehouse, Shanghai, China; Superbia 2, Cork Capital City of Culture 2005, Affinity, Billboart Gallery Europe, presented in 13 European capital cities, 2004; Recent projects and publications: The umbrella project walking tours, The Firestation Artists Studios Artist in the community studio award and home Rhona Byrne and Ballymun Pigeon Club.