Film: ‘North Circular’ – my beautiful neighbourhood

The film starts at the Phoenix Park end of the road and progresses up to Sherriff Street. The street is described as having a ‘dark edge’ which rings true to these ears. Former residents of the O’Devaney Gardens housing estate near Stoneybatter describe their lives in that council estate before it was knocked and gifted to developers and vulture funds for the as yet unbuilt, unaffordable homes. This reflects the displacement of Dublin communities for profit. The legendary trad music bar Cobblestone pub on Smithfield Square faced demolition to facilitate another nine storey hotel. Local musician John Francis Flynn spoke about the importance of this pub to the revival of Irish traditional music. This was another example of how Dublin City Council seems hellbent on destroying the culture of city. The interview with the man who spent time in St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital in Grangegorman showed Ireland’s brutal history of institutionalism. Singer Gemma Dunleavy visited the old Mother and Baby Home on Sean McDermott Street where ‘fallen’ women were incarcerated for their sins. Public outcry prevented the development of this building into yet another chain hotel. The film shows how the street becomes a national street for the All-Ireland finals every year when the supporters of the competing teams descend on Croke Park which is located just off the North Circular.

Gemma Dunleavy

The film is beautiful. Written and directed by Luke McManus and edited by John Murphy, it is an elegy to a street simultaneously being strangled by development, yet evolving. I was gripping the side of my seat in the cinema while watching. This was tense stuff. These were my streets for several years. The canal walk underneath Croke Park was one that I passed hundreds of times during the pandemic – both for strolls and for when I was volunteering to collect rubbish (one of my most memorable pandemic moments was when an intoxicated man called me a ‘capitalist, fucking cunt stealing a man’s job’ for my rubbish collecting efforts). There was Blessington Basin – the city centre oasis I visited for the first time during the lockdown. My eyes were peeled for my own big screen debut. I was in attendance at the triumphant homecoming of Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington. It was for ‘locals only’. Being a Dublin 1 resident at the time, that included me. The most striking image for me was the shot of Gemma Dunleavy walking under the bridge on Seville Place – a stone’s throw from my own house. That was my bridge for a few years.It was bittersweet to watch these scenes and images of my old neighbourhood on the silver screen. Maybe I am not the working class, inner city Dublin hero displaced by progress, being lamented in the film. But it’s still money that convinced my ‘culchee’ bones to relocate back to Limerick last year when realisation dawned on me that trying to put down permanent roots in Dublin was outside my ability (budget). It’s wonderful though, that this beautiful film exists . It’s a stunning, seemingly personal ode to a street and a time in my life that I hold dear. Highly recommended.

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