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It is difficult within the scope of a short essay to relate all of the personal and The pigeon racing season is between April and September so after September our
professional details of working on Home, and all their intersections, but basically it weekly meetings took a break. This space afforded me the opportunity to question
describes how the project evolved and was manifested. Through a period of my role in this process, to ask myself: ‘Why was I doing this? Was I trying to be a social
research I found that it was common practice for residents to keep pigeon lofts on mediator? How was this social research relevant to my art practice? Did the club really
the balconies of the flats and that Ballymun had its own pigeon club which had want me to be there?’ Looking back on this project I really value the time it took to
been situated on the ground floor of the Shangan block of flats since the early let this project breathe and grow. I now know that to have a time plan outlined for a
1970s. I made contact with Tommy Nelson the secretary of this club. It became project is crucial and that a lot of time needs to be allocated for communication.
apparent that the club was concerned about being allocated a new club house Collaborative ways of working rely on trust and this trust requires time to build.
within the regeneration scheme. For me, it became an important motivation to
develop a creative process that would make the club more visible and
The common goal of the project was to create an event, where written wishes from
communicate the concerns of its members, while strengthening its existing link
the local residents would be attached to the legs of homing pigeons and released
with the local community.
from the balconies of the flats. The event would introduce the club and its activities
to a wider audience and encourage some younger members to join, highlighting
Over the following eighteen months I entered into a process of dialogue with some their need for a new clubhouse.
of the residents of Ballymun and the members of the pigeon club to try and explore
how people felt about the regeneration of this area. I started visiting the pigeon
The pigeon season started again. By now it was April 2003. If the project event was
club on Friday nights when the club met and this process continued for a couple of
going to happen it had to coincide with this season or we would have to wait
months where my Friday nights were spent hanging out at the pigeon club, getting
another year. I prepared information packs to distribute to the residents, which
to know the club members and studying the world of pigeon racing. My intention
included background information on the project including a small envelope with
wasn’t to impose an idea for a project. For me this process was both research and
pieces of paper to write wishes on and a number of questions designed to evoke
exploration of how the project might happen and a way to develop relationships to
open, individual responses to this time of change.
see if this could possibly work. I wanted this to be a collaborative journey. I used
Three teenage girls from the Shangan flats and I knocked on peoples’ doors, telling
photography throughout my explorations to visually record this engagement. I set
people about the project and leaving with them the information packs that would
about visiting some of the club members at home on an individual basis. I felt this
later be collected. Within the larger regeneration project we were offering a small
was a useful opportunity to explain why I was interested in this project as an artist
gesture or space for individual expression. People were very receptive to the project
and also develop a common goal and understanding that I hoped held more
and very generous with their time.
meaning. It was also interesting to see the DIY construction of their pigeon lofts
and hear about the personal commitment to this complex sport.
By now we had many participants in the project. To bring the project to the next
stage we sourced funding from a number of sources outside of the usual arts
My funding submission to Breaking Ground was unsuccessful. Looking back now,
funding structures. We advertised the project by sending out press releases to local
that is not surprising. I had proposed a naively ambitious and very costly project
press and put posters up in local shops. On the morning of the pigeon liberation,
that was going to be a TV documentary, a massive televised event, travelling
the pigeon club filled with local kids curious to see how their wishes would be
exhibition and mass produced book. I decided that I would carry on with the
attached to the pigeons’ feet. As we attached the wishes we read them out loud,
project anyway and through the project’s many manoeuvres and manifestations, it
wishes such as ‘I wish for a community where people could get along for the sake of the
became a huge learning curve, that continually informs my art projects. While
children as they grow up. And for all the drug dealing to stop’. The pigeons were
retaining the fundamental conceptual structure, I was forced into being much more
carefully packed into their baskets and carried into position onto the balconies of
versatile in terms of the project outcomes and sourcing funding. Crucially the
each of the seven storey blocks of flats. A large group of people gathered on the
timeframe for the project became much more protracted, enabling a more
comprehensive and thorough dialogue around the project.
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