ALIGHT! bus tour delights audiences

Pictured at Dublin’s Culture Connects Mystery History Cabaret are, clockwise from top left: Caoimhe Mulcahy and Rory Dignam performing at St. John the Evangelist church in Sandymount.

The nights of February 26th, 27th and 28th saw local audiences treated to the ALIGHT! Mystery History Cabaret Tour, a magical bus tour around the Ringsend, Irishtown, Pearse Street and Sandymount area that incorporated innovative community-based storytelling, dance, art and performance projects.

The ALIGHT! bus tour project, which was part of DCC’s citywide Culture Connects initiative, included local performers, and the performance pieces celebrated personal stories and social history collected in the area.

The tour saw a specially commissioned double-decker bus collect audience members at Pearse Street and St. Patrick’s Church over the three nights and the lucky participants were whisked off to three locations, where they enjoyed vibrant performances based on local themes.

En route, passengers on the cheerily-decorated bus enjoyed banter and dexterous juggling performances from their madcap host Jitterbug Jackson, as well as humorous and poignant stories of local characters from ALIGHT! bus conductor and local storyteller Anthony O’Reardon.

Pictured: On the ALIGHT! bus was Rodney Devitt as James Joyce.
All photographs by Marc O’Sullivan.

James Joyce himself even made a special guest appearance on the journey to point out the significance of the locality to his literary masterpiece Ulysses.

The first stop of the tour was at St. John’s Church, Sandymount, where audiences enjoyed an evocative dance, drama and spoken word piece performed in the church building. The piece was based upon a personal romance narrative sourced locally and was preceded by impressive musical performances by church organists Tom Maxwell and Matthew Breen.

Pearse Square Park was the next destination, where the park under starlight provided the perfect natural setting for a stunning dance arrangement performed to music and readings of Yeats’s poetry inspired by Irish fairy lore. The piece was a collaboration between dancers from CoisCéim dance company and Emma Martin, Aoife Kinsella, Roisín Cork and Englentina Doda of talented local baton-twirling performance group The Dazzlettes.

The tour destinations concluded in The Vintage Inn, Irishtown Road, with performances referencing local history, which included fine musical renditions and drama from Kathy Gleeson. In an atmospheric upstairs room of the historic pub building, local actor Philip Murphy delivered a powerful and evocative one-man performance in a dramatic piece exploring wartime themes from the locality.

Belfast-based performer Hugh Brown, who played the part of jovial tour guide and en-suite resident juggling clown Jitterbug Jackson, explained the process of engaging with locals to create the event: “It was an amazing experience to come here as the ultimate ‘blow-in’ from Belfast; work with people from Pearse Street, Ringsend, Irishtown and Sandymount; collect stories and be inspired by the stories to create little pieces of theatre and writing and dance with CoisCéim and their Director/Choreographer Muirne Bloomer. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve learned a lot about the area. I’ve been welcomed and looked after here and I hope that we’ve done justice to the stories of the local people”.

The ALIGHT! Mystery History Cabaret Tour project certainly brought local history alive while delighting audiences over the three nights of its run. One active local who performed as part of the project was ALIGHT! musician and actor, and Vintage Inn owner, Kathy Gleeson. Speaking to NewsFour on what the project had brought to the area she said: “I think it really got people talking. So many people who maybe never entered the church on Saint John’s Road all of a sudden experienced some theatre and dance there. And the monument on Irishtown Road for the doctor and artist William Ashford – how many of us knew about him?

Performing in Pearse Square, is Amy Kellett from Coisceim BROADREACH youth programme.

“At Pearse Park, again, people experienced theatre and dance in a space that you pass by every day. On a wider scale when you look at all the events Dublin’s Culture Connects did with the ALIGHT! bus, using it to bring local groups to cultural buildings within the capital and engaging with local schools on projects that would inspire them to understand the nature and culture around them – you’d have to say it was a great success and I think more good things will come from this.”

When asked how such projects contributed to the local community in these times of change with the Poolbeg SDZ development, the firing up of the Covanta incinerator and big business moving into the area, Gleeson replied: “There’s no doubt our area is changing massively, but there is a vibrancy to our little village on the edge of all this development. Community groups are developing and changing all the time. I definitely think that our village will at some point develop an arts festival and judging by the feedback from the recent Mystery History Cabaret there’s definitely room for more theatrical, musical and cultural endeavours to engage with community groups so as to keep telling our stories and celebrating our traditions and culture”.

Information on the wider Culture Connects programme, and images and videos from the local ALIGHT! project, can be found at:

By Harry Bradley