Stoneybetter than all the rest?
5 MIN READ
Stoneybatter is reputed to be one of the oldest urban villages in Dublin. Its Viking past is evoked by its street names: Norseman, Thor, Olaf – to name just a few. But on a chilly afternoon in October Stoneybatter’s past is not the focus but rather its vibrant present and bright future.
Judging for the National Enterprise Town Awards (NETA) took place throughout August, September, and October and when Stoneybatter’s turn came around residents and judges gathered in the Community Centre on Prussia Street and were welcomed by the sweet sounds of the pupils of St Gabriel’s National School singing Molly Malone.
Butcher, baker, candlestick maker?
Advocating for their village are Emer Costello and Seaneen Sullivan, both sheepishly admitting to being relative ‘blow-ins’ to the area but showing an enthusiasm for their adopted home that would make you think they were born, bred, and buttered Stoneybattonians (Stoneybatterites? Stoneybats? The collective noun for Stoneybatter residents is unclear).
Throughout a slick and professional presentation Emer and Seaneen take turns highlighting the different aspects that make up Stoneybatter’s culture.
From its 85 diverse businesses, including a butcher and baker (no candlestick maker yet although Seaneen reckons that an entrepreneurial hipster won’t be long taking up that mantle), to the recent ‘vegan revolution’ with three new vegan eateries opened up in the last 12 months, as well as community efforts to make the area an attractive and pleasant place to live, work, and study with pollinator friendly flowers planted and maintained by local volunteers- the presence of which has brightened the streets and reduced litter.
Front and centre in Emer and Seaneen’s presentation is the Stoneybatter Festival, which this year hosted 120 events in 57 locations.
Emer is quick to mention that, in 2018, President Michael D. Higgins and his wife, Sabina, attended and Seaneen highlights how many food start-ups had their beginnings at the festival, calling out Vegan Sandwich Company specifically which has gone from strength to strength since slinging their first vegan chick*n fillet roll on Stoneybatter’s streets.
Once the presentation has ended the floor is opened up to a Q&A and the judges offer their thoughts on what’s been put forward so far.
Tom Hayes goes first and speaks to how inspired he is by the sense of community in Stoneybatter, something which he acknowledges is often hard to foster in an urban environment.
His words are echoed by, his fellow judges, Marie Cawley and Eddie Breen but before much more can be added a voice from the crowd pipes up and has her say.
The voice belongs to Sr Peggy who was moved to speak by the community spirit of togetherness in Stoneybatter which has touched her so deeply.
She specifically draws attention to the annual Christmas dinner held in the community centre for older people in the community, run entirely by volunteers.
Sr Peggy isn’t the only Stoneybatter resident to speak up in favour of her home.
The Principal of St Gabriel’s School, Suzanne Comerford, herself a former pupil of Stanhope Street Primary School calls Stoneybatter ‘a great place to grow up in and… a really unique place to live and work’.
Once the Q&A is wrapped up with the pupils of St Gabriel’s rendition of Dublin in the Rare Aul Times, there’s quick break for tea and cake and the whistle stop tour of Stoneybatter begins.
Students and residents living in harmony
The tour starts at TU’s Grangegorman campus, which currently caters to 2,000 students, with this number to increase to 20,000 by 2023.
The challenges that such an influx of students will present has not been overlooked by Stoneybatter and the Pride of Place committee have been actively engaging with TU to ensure maximum benefit to the wider Stoneybatter community including local employment, educational opportunities and access to the campus recreational and sporting facilities for all local residents.
On the day that the NETA judges visit, there are people walking dogs on the 73 acre site, with a rugby match taking place on one of the sports pitches, and children from the on-site Educate Together School kicking a soccer ball in between the young trees.
From the leafy environs of Grangegorman the tour moves onwards to Manor Street, the group now joined by some local residents who are quick to interject when they think our guide, local businessman Dick Pender, is skipping over important information.
Community education and training centres
We make brief stops at the Gateway Centre, a women’s education and training facility; the community defibrillator, installed in a repurposed phone box; and the Stoneybatter Community Training centre, which used to be a cinema and we are informed, with a wink, that in times gone by any couple who got married in Stoneybatter met in the cinema.
After a quick sojourn up Manor Place to meet the formidable and eponymous Maureen of Maureen’s shop we’re back on Stoneybatter’s main thoroughfare where Sr Peggy has welcomed us to An Síol, a community centre which provides therapy and counselling, active retirement activities, and caters to at risk youth; offering them options for progression and education other than university.
Uniforms, bees, and bars
Jim Grant is the next businessman to have his store invaded by curious judges as we continue on our tour.
He is the fifth generation of Grant to run Grant’s uniform shop in its 100 year history.
After helping a customer he turns his attention to us and informs us that Grant’s has become a ‘destination store’ offering all Irish-made products and uniforms to 58 schools.
At Bí Urban we meet Kaethe Burt-O’Dea and resident dog, Jango, and are told all about the importance of pollinators and her plans improve the biodiversity of the area.
The planters outside L. Mulligan Grocers are also pollinator friendly and Seaneen, who’s responsible for Mulligan’s recent success story, draws attention to them as well as the recommissioned vintage gas-lamp outside the pub.
There’s some disappointment when she says we don’t have time to stop into Mulligan’s for a pint but we do pop into The Glimmerman, another of Stoneybatter’s popular drinking spots.
It’s a treasure trove inside, with everything from bikes, records, license plates, and any other kind of curiosity you could think of covering the walls. Percy, one of the local residents who joined us on our tour asks the barman, who has been telling us the history of the place, what the pint is like.
‘Well, we sell enough of them’, comes the wry reply.
Pints are not on the schedule for our tour but we are treated to coffee and baked goods in Penders Market.
Whether or not this counts as bribery is not mentioned, as everyone’s mouths are too filled with cinnamon buns to ask.
Wellbeing and employment
Onwards to the Elbow Room where we meet Lisa, a human, and Rosie, a Labrador.
Employing 20 full time and 35 contract workers the Elbow Room provides yoga and Pilates classes, and describes itself as a wellbeing hub.
Lisa tells us about how, last year, she brought families living in direct provision centres to her Wicklow retreat to celebrate Christmas.
The Spade Enterprise Centre is our penultimate stop and we are welcomed by Evanne Kilmurray of Inner City Enterprise, a non-profit set up to advise and assist unemployed people to set up their own business or create their own self-employment.
They employ three full time staff and have helped to set up 1100 new businesses in the last 8 years.
The enterprise centre is home to a diverse range of start-ups with everything from cupcakes to a comedian occupying a space.
Inner City Enterprise’s focus is employing the harder to reach sectors of society and Evanne calls attention to Mugshot, a mobile coffee cart run by ex-offenders now trained as baristas who started selling coffee outside of Cloverhill prison but are now operating in the Four Courts car-park.
Our last stop is Lucky’s, a barbershop run by Lucky, who came to Ireland as an asylum seeker from Burundi, trained as a barber, and opened his business in 2008.
His shop has become a community hub which is often full of people who have stopped by just to have a chat and meet their neighbours.
Hoping that Lucky’s luck is contagious are Stoneybatter’s representatives as the tour has come to an end and their NETA fate lies in the hands of the judges.
Have they done enough to prove that Stoneybatter is Stoneybetter than the rest?
We’ll have to wait and see.
Find out more
Bank of Ireland’s National Enterprise Town Awards recognise the spirit of enterprise in local areas across Ireland, bringing business and community groups together to showcase their efforts to build an economically sustainable community.
Good luck to all the towns attending the final of the Bank of Ireland National Enterprise Town Awards 2019.