Bridging Communities in the Grand Canal Basin

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In the last issue of NewsFour we looked at 90s rave culture in Dublin 4’s former textile factory Columbia Mills. In this issue we speak with those behind Mabos, a DIY space located on Hanover Quay in a former Raleigh warehouse, who are actively and creatively engaging with the surrounding community rather than offering a home to today’s ravers.

The space houses a workshop, studios for artists and an entertainment area and “flips over” quickly to accommodate its needs at any given time. Mabos is run on funds raised at its events. These events include table ping-pong competitions, Excel and pallet furniture making workshops as well as skill days for local kids, discussions, film-screenings, parties and trad gigs.

Dave Smith, who, along with Christian Reeves and a handful of others, “spear-headed” the development of the venue over the past year, describes it as a “space that gives over to a social cohesion; it breaks barriers really quickly”. As an entertainment space it’s beyond the norm of a club or a bar. “It is a space designed for interaction, with ping-pong boards, giant game boys, interactive computer games; experiential entertainment,” says Smith.

“We didn’t model this space on anyone or anything. It was kind of like a group of people had a desire to do something collectively in a space,” says Smith. Mabos feels like a truly unique place, all of the furniture has been built from pallets or found materials. There are sofas with perfectly fitted cushions, a beautiful light made from a pallet covered with a sheet of Perspex, parquet coffee tables again made from pallets or a larger, more intricate table made from an old door. There’s an old Wurlitzer organ, a giant robot, and a huge screen which houses a Wii type computer game. This isn’t student digs furniture; it’s displays of a honed craft and skill which is shared at their workshops.

“There’s obviously a duty of care with the space, the minute you let people into it there’s a responsibility,” says Smith. That responsibility they address by keeping their capacity to 200 people, which is very small considering the size of the building. They employ a security guard and run a registration policy for their events.

“Because it’s a warehouse there’s a perception that this place is home to raves. That’s just not true. It’s a really clean-fun space,” says Smith. Some local residents were initially dubious, complaining of noise, but later came round when their complaints were addressed and they saw the good that was happening.

They have taken their social responsibility out onto the streets in the Grand Canal area in one of their latest projects, The Meitheal Initiative. Meitheal, an Irish word for which there is no direct translation, means a collective effort for the greater good of the community. “10 years ago there was absolutely nothing in the area, now it’s quite a cool little neighbourhood, with both residential and corporates, but there’s a disconnect in it as well. No one takes ownership of cleaning the place up.” Mabos have contacted the businesses in the area as well as local residents (many of whom work in the nearby technology industries) inviting them to connect to their immediate environment and assist in a general sprucing up of the area. A collective effort will regularly be put into weeding, picking up rubbish from the water and ground, painting over bad graffiti and planting ‘help yourself’ herb gardens or hanging baskets.

Mabos was founded after their successful Kings of Concrete festival, which ran for seven years. The festival, sadly not funded this year, was – in its inception – a skateboarding and street culture festival. “The festival had outgrown its space, so we saw this particular stretch in the Grand Canal as the setting for our new vision of where we wanted to take it,” says Smith. They envisioned a permanent home for the annual festival, which had it been funded, would have used the warehouse as a base for events and the build-up to the festival.

They rent from a bank who own the building, getting funds for the rent from their events. But the events have been met with red tape by authorities. Their future is unfortunately not secure, but their enthusiasm and openness to change is unmoveable.

If you want to support Mabos check out the donators section on their website –
To see events:

Pictured: Dave Smith and his dog Avi recline on the palette furniture in the Mabos warehouse.

By Emma Dwyer