Publication Coming Soon

The Bernard Shaw Legacy

The Bernard Shaw Legacy

Marc Matouc

Lauren Carey

Richmond Street, Dublin, late 2017. The night was rich with saturated orange clouds. In my direction they were half white, and in the other they were half sun-kissed lighting up like tinfoil in a microwave against the backdrop of a dark blue sky. Cranes were hanging in the horizon, arching over me like mechanical willow trees; rickshaws pullulated and young eager students clattered waiting in line. Fresh outta the “big LC”, free from the shackles of a bygone uniformity….we…were…hungry; desperate to make our mark on this fine young Georgian city. In front of me stood the Bernard Shaw, in my older cousin’s time it was a hipster dive-bar now turned hipster fly-bar. With me in line were my best friends Kian, Cal, Ethan, Alex and a few others.

The first batch of “Generation Z” was ready to counter their millennial predecessors and take to the streets. To paint a picture, in the south you had the likes of the Bernard Shaw, Blackbird and Portobello Rain. Further inwards, the Bleeding Horse, followed by hordes of people at Harcourt and Camden Street with Everleigh, D2, Krystle, Coppers and Dicey’s. Whilst on Camden all the way to the famed George’s Street you had Flannery’s, Palace, Opium, Whelan’s, Berlin D2, The George, The Globe and Izakaya. To the east there was The South William Club with its basement, the “Wah-Wah Club” and a little closer North you had the infamous Hangar where a tenner would suffice you for a good night out;not forgetting the renowned Academy too. We had a mouthful of options and a 5.80-euro Guinness wasn’t going to buy itself. During this period, there was a recent explosion of underground music. Now, more known acts such as Clairo, Gus Dapperton, Men I Trust, Yellow Days, Phum Viphurit, Joji, Boy Pablo, Kaytranada, The Wallows, Ross from Friends and so many other upcoming artists were climbing to recognition gaining traction through Spotify and local gigs in The Button Factory and Workman’s. Not to mention “Vipsy,” the personalized app that let you know of everything going on in the city and, for a measly Facebook post you could avail of free entry to all these clubs before 11pm. Did I mention at this stage there were no 24-hour buses running? Yeah... 11pm was pretty much the cut-off point or hitch a taxi with the lads. Dublin was tantalizingly niche and the choices seemed overwhelming.

Returning to the Bernard Shaw, we entered the doors, the bouncer asking for that crumpled passport that had been battered by the Debs. A quick nod and we are inside, the top floor had a pub vibe, below that lay a club with a dancefloor where Irish DJs played disco-house and techno. To the back of the club, there was a long lane with promo stickers of bands, acts, designs, QR codes, snapchat names and numbers littered across the wall to the toilets. Adjacent to this, was the exit door to a huge courtyard filled with picnic blue wooden tables and an old 1960s-80s Dublin Bus converted into a mini pizza parlor café. Many nights were had here, in a cozy, local, authentic bar which opened to a food court next-door welcoming local students and hipsters from near and far. A taste of character swept Dublin. I felt like I belonged there, the fun you could have with people and the dancing to cutting-edge music at a time where the city was bustling was something to behold.

This era of… “hype” lasted until roughly mid to late 2019 when the first wave of nightlife decline was seen in the city - at least to me. Several clubs and bars closed down including my beloved Bernard Shaw. For reasons often to do with vulture funds and random hotels being built, Dublin started going through some sort of weird neo-liberal colonization; out of this, big, plastic, sterile, minimalist looking structures have been built out of the ground. Shards of metal and prefab have created a husk for the tomb of our once fair city. “Hotelification” it’s been called, and after two and a half years of a grueling pandemic, so many of these clubs face extinction alongside it’s culture. Places like Camden Street are flooded with queues to clubs that seem to have no limit to their capacity, a hypocritical flaw considering how, for years we were judged by bouncers for the ratio of guys to girls there were in line and if your group was too much you’d be kicked out. Not that these matters don’t happen still - they do, but in seemingly way less numbers. What seems to be different from the zeitgeist of 2017 is the difference between quality vs quantity. In the past, both in Ireland and abroad where culture was given more funding and concern a club would be aware of its branding… of its identity…. of what it represented.

Now, given the Cost-of-living crisis that affects us all, clubs are paranoid over how many people they can cram into their spaces rather than feeling comfortable and confident to be able to say “no”. Luke Kelly once sang, “For what died the Son’s of Roisin?” I beg to you the question, are we in a new form of corporate colonialism where character is undermined by the “highest bidder?” Our enemy is not violent but they have an arsenal of lobbying and the sway of bureaucracy at their will. Phil Lynott’s “Old Town” might be a song of personal heartbreak, but looking back at the music video would show a different one that beckons for our city to redeem its beautiful Georgian/hipster individuality once again. Perhaps Lynott had the same love and adoration which a young man of 24 can have for his city now. U2, Aslan, James Joyce, heck… even the Coronas know anyone who grew up here in Dublin has this spirit. This to me, topped with the increasing corporatism that looms over our capital is an indication of desperation. Of a time where “belonging” is found in a quick trip down TikTok lane where people are unaware they are being overcharged for a watered-down beer.

Romanticizing the past is not what the intention for this entry is, there’s always the good and bad, but giving some insight as to the legacy that a thriving city like Dublin can give a young person is so important to me. I love this city and I believe we can redeem what (only a few years ago) once was. Belonging can easily be found in Richmond Street, where the old remnants of the Shaw can still be seen today, reminding like a fresh gust of wind, that hope is just under our nose. Will you answer its call?