The recent Pretty Vacant tour of derelict properties in the town was a roaring success, and despite the seemingly pessimistic subject of the event, organisers say it was very positive for the campaign.
ighty people joined in the walk on Sunday August 2t8h, which was a collaboration between Dom Gradwell, Declan Mallon and Cathal Thornton of the Upstate Theatre Company, focussing on vacancy and dereliction in Drogheda but with a keen eye on the potential that is there to be tapped into in the town.
“We had an idea to limit the number of people to 50, so booked 50 slots which were fully subscribed in a few hours, and on the day we actually had 30 more people turn up, which shows you the interest there is,” says Dom. “When I started this, I never expected to get so much support, which was so encouraging to see on the day.”
The tour started in Dominic’s Park, looking over at the site of the decimated Donaghy’s Mill, before making its way over Dominic’s Bridge, Narrow West St, Fair St, William St and Laurence’s Gate, up at Fiddle Case Pier on the north bank of the Boyne around two hours later.
A plethora of special guest speakers – including Niall Kierans, formerly of Kierans’ Bros Deli, as well as visitors Frank O’Connor and Jude Sherry from #DerelictIreland and architects Rob Curley and Alphonso Bonilla. gave interesting and informative talks.
“For them to give their time free of charge to come to Drogheda was incredible and every one left a lot wiser about the issues, but with a greater love and appreciation for what we have in the town,” says Dom.
Poet Anthony Matthews wrote a piece especially for the day and Felix Gorman sang at the start of the tour, with Stone Cold Hobo’s singer Martin Cummins finishing off the event, with community historian Brendan Matthews doing a very insightful talk in between.
“In order to find solutions, we have to showcase the problem and admit that it’s there,” he explains. “People are starting to look up and se the waste around the town, but of course the challenge it to get those who can make a difference to notice and take action.”
The ‘Nationwide’ cameras were there for RTE, and the tour will be featured at a later date, but rather then see that as an embarrassment, Dom sees it as a necessity.
“At the start I thought that would be terrible, showing Drogheda in a terrible light, but I think It will be a positive thing, and that’s one of the messages we wanted to get across with the walk; there’s hope, our town is not a dead duck.”
In fact, one of the highlights of the tour was being able to announce at Paradise Place that the Peter McVerry Trust will be taking over the row of vacant houses there for their charity.
“They will be able to accommodate people very soon, and they are also working on getting planning on Chapel Lane, so that will be huge regeneration of that area,” he says. “Alison Harvey from Heritage Ireland says there may be some good news for the town too.”
@DerelictDrawda on Twitter or #DerelictIreland.