I was 15 when I first wrote to a politician. My letter asked that youth centres be built in response to the rapid development of housing estates around the country. I wrote three letters, but never received a reply. So we decided to do it ourselves. We organised gigs in an empty parish hall while speculators waited for planning permission. We pooled our resources and shared what little equipment we had. We started bands. The bands played gigs. With the money from the gigs we bought a PA system so we didn’t have to rent one any more. Then we went on tour around the country. We met other teenagers and told them how they could do the same and from that we built a mutually supportive network.
This taught me an important lesson: there is always a way.
I’m now 23, and since then I have applied this attitude to a diverse range of fields from starting my own record label to managing bands. From using a suburban house as an all ages venue when we couldn’t afford space in the city to then taking advantage of falling rents and establishing Exchange Dublin http://exchangedublin.ie/ a volunteer run, non-profit social centre in Temple Bar. In 2008, I documented this ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude in a film called ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ , which you can watch online. The documentary has been shown in the UK, Germany, Belgium, France and the USA –proving that these ideas are universal. It also proves that ability and youth are not mutually exclusive.
Having worked with Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar since 2004, I recently became the youngest ever member of its Board of Directors. Through my involvement there I met a lot of artists working in theatre. Last summer I was assistant director for a show called ‘Heroin’ in the Absolut Dublin Fringe Festival. The show told the story of the drug in Ireland, the detrimental effect it had on communities, and how the situation was worsened by reactionary government policies. ‘Heroin’ won the Spirit of the Fringe Award that year.
The previous summer, I ran an event called ‘Culture & the City: the debate’ for Temple Bar Cultural Trust. The debate happened in the open air in Meeting House Square. Every person attending wore a mask to conceal their identity. This was an experiment to encourage honest debate from participants. It was inspiring to see a large citizens’ forum in action. I had already used a smaller version of this format in January 2009 for an event called ‘Change?’. It was a week-long series of talks and debates that challenged the idea of change; what did it really mean and how authentic were political promises of it. The resolute consensus after the event was that public pressure makes change, and the politician’s role is to facilitate it.
When I marched with 30,000 students last November against the government proposal to increase university fees, I felt that pressure. When 50,000 people marched to show their dissatisfaction with the government later that month, I felt that pressure. Now I want to facilitate that change.
I can’t do that on my own though. To get this far the campaign has been powered entirely by volunteers who have lent their time and skills because they believe in this. To get to the next stage, it needs you. Click the ‘donate’ button to help us produce printed materials or email firstname.lastname@example.org to help us on the ground.
It starts here.
Dylan Haskins: Achievements to date
Director, board of Project Arts Centre Temple Bar – since July 2009
Founder, Exchange Dublin, Multi Award-Winning Collective Arts Centre
Manager/Founder, Hide Away Records and House venue – since April 2007
Reporter/Contributor, ‘Arena’ RTE – since October 2009
Assistant Director, Award-Winning ‘Heroin’ in Absolut Fringe Festival Dublin 2010
Festival Director, Trinity Arts Festival 2010
Speaker on “The Creative City” TEDx Dublin 2010
TV Presenter, RTE Two’s Two Tube
Young Filmmakers Bursary Winner, 1st place, 2008
BCI Sound & Vision Award (in assoc. w/ Project Arts Centre & DCTV)
Currently studying Classics and the History of Art and Architecture in Trinity College Dublin