The people of Cork are taking control of their communities: derelict buildings are being transformed into works of art, unsightly laneways regenerated into usable connections and public spaces are being made enjoyable.
Reimagine Cork began when co-founder Eoghan Ryan returned from Australia and was saddened to see how far the city had fallen into disrepair; ‘I was shocked at the vacancy and dereliction in the centre of Cork. Whenever the question was asked as to why, fingers pointed elsewhere.’ As with the creation of most inspiring projects, he started by taking the matter into his own hands. Reimagine Cork was initially self-funded in 2014 with co-founder Alasdair Fitzpatrick. They had a simple objective, to start improving the streets of Cork little by little. It often meant cleaning up debris, removing unwanted graffiti tags and adding colour and planting to Cork’s historical spine.
Eoghan explains the common theme throughout the scheme has always been celebrating the ‘History, Humour and Heroes’; a simple message with a powerful outcome. Most importantly it was about engaging the people of Cork with their historic past.
From humble beginnings in 2014, each year the project grew with volunteers and enthusiasm. The team approached businesses adjacent to disheveled properties and spaces and went about improving them in whatever way they could with donated funds or materials. One of the earliest projects, Coleman’s Lane was proof of what happens when a community takes pride in their everyday streetscape. The lane was entirely avoided due its dark, damp and unsavoury veneer. With a splash of paint, some beautiful artwork and a sprinkling of greenery the laneway was transformed and soon became an accessible route through the city once again.
History: The River of Time, Grattan St. carpark; the pupils of Cork Educate Together National School created a huge mural depicting Cork’s history through the ages. The project was in collaboration with the CIF. Photo source: corkeducatetogether.ie.
As the project gained momentum, it was important to create a business model; a system by which the organisation could carry out each proposal in an organised and meaningful manner. Eoghan, who has a background in project management, explains his three prong business approach when it came to Reimagine Cork; ‘the project couldn’t happen without the volunteers, the funders like Cork City Council and the charitable organisations. At the same time, it is very much learning by doing.’ For Eoghan one of the most intrinsic parts to the project was community spirit and support from the public; ‘most importantly, the projects gave empowerment to communities, showing them what they could achieve in their areas.’
As 2017 begins, Reimagine Cork reflects on a successful year gone by. In 2016 they concentrated on the reactivation of public spaces and urban green areas such as Kyle Street; an empty space full of rubble and weed. Previously an eyesore for the residents living in the area, its transformation into an urban garden made a truly important impact on the people of Kyle Street. The garden continues to thrive and will continue to do so until future development.
The new year brings new projects for Reimagine Cork as they intend to expand outwards, focusing on the North Channel of the River Lee. Like many Irish quayside cities, Cork appears to turn its back on the river channel rather than embracing it. Reimagine want to change this; ‘We’re not reinventing the wheel here, we’re simply joining the dots from existing reports and development plans. While the desire to activate these spaces was present, the people to implement them weren’t.’ Eoghan highlights that showing the council a structure to their work with a strong focus on delivery and action is crucial in securing support and funding.
The joys of urban living can be enhanced by the changes made to derelict architecture and general dishevelment. Catalysts like Eoghan Ryan and his team behind Reimagine Cork are what societies need to get people thinking about the everyday spaces they inhabit. While the team are all about letting the humour shine and celebrating Cork in its totality, on a larger scale Cork’s reimagining is becoming a reality.
For more information or to get involved, go to www.reimaginecork.com or follow their work on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.