Interview with Mark O’Brien (Arts Centre Director)
Axis is an Arts and Community Resource centre, situated on the main street of Ballymun
What happens there?
Axis houses a 211 seat theatre, dance studio, music rehearsal and recording studios, art studio, gallery, café, conference centre, crèche and is home to a range of community tenants. Axis’ programme ranges from our own award winning theatre productions that have toured both nationally and internationally, to visiting productions in theatre, dance, comedy and music, to arts development projects that see people from all areas of both the local and surrounding communities exploring their creativity. Axis is also involved in local festivals in youth arts, Halloween and a new summer traditional music festival launching in 2014
Who is it for? Why is it here? (Why ‘Axis’?)
Axis is programmed both as a cultural venue for the local community, but also as an invite and a resource to the rest of the city to come to Ballymun and get creative.
What is your role and how did you get there?
I am acting director and have been here for coming on 10 years now. Previously I was Arts development manager. It is an honour to work in such a vibrant community where the value of arts and creative practice is apparent, from young people developing new writing in Hip Hop, to people singing with the National Chamber Choir, to local actors making their professional stage debut, to youth groups developing music projects. The North of Dublin is alive with talent and creativity
Describe the centre for someone who doesn’t know it. What makes it special?
I think for me it is the atmosphere, the welcome that makes axis special. We are open from 9 in the morning to past 11 most nights. Our day has many different parts. In the morning, young kids being dropped off to the crèche, people breakfasting in the café, community groups working with their clients. The afternoon sees rehearsals, art and drama classes, music lessons, arts development projects, conferences and then in the evening we have events and shows in our theatre. A bustling, busy, welcoming place.
Can you talk about its location, its surroundings and the general atmosphere of that part of Dublin? Can you describe your relationship with the streets outside the building, your neighbours etc?
Axis is on the new main street of Ballymun. Its surroundings have changed hugely in the last 10 years. We front out onto the new town plaza and are beside the civic offices and Travelodge hotel. Axis is like the old Ballymun roundabout, a centre for the community, a landmark. Axis also acts as a link to the city. Axis is very much part of the cultural framework of the city and is hugely involved in other areas through many different projects and people who have been involved in projects here who have brought their work outside of Ballymun.
What is your favourite recent event? Most memorable?
Last December we had an amazing evening when Glen Hansard, a Ballymun native, played an acoustic concert in our theatre. He was supported on the night by two young local singer songwriters. It was an incredible night, and also all the proceeds from the night are now going towards a bursary for young musicians in the area. I even got to duet with Glen myself.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the fact that no two days are the same and that I have met some of the most wonderful people through my work here, I get to say yes to people’s ideas and work with them to make them happen.
Does anything about it make you cranky?
I can thankfully say that my work inspires me daily, although I would have to admit to getting tired every now and then.
If Axis wasn’t what it is, what do you think would be there in its place?
I can’t imagine Ballymun, or even Dublin, without Axis. I think a space like Axis was always going to be created in Ballymun with the vibrancy of the people here.
What do you imagine will be here in the future?
Axis will set sail into the future as part of a brilliant community and city. Axis will remain a space to come see a show, record a song, dance your dance, write your words. A place where the culture of the community and its city can be explored and developed. But most of all a place where we can play.
We are delighted to again host the Dublin Writers Festival this year
Axis Arts and Community Centre: Main Street, Ballymun, Dublin 9