Summer Pleasures In Dublin

Staying in town for jazz, James Joyce & dancing in the streets.

By Elaine Walsh

Visitors to Ireland often see Dublin only in the rear-view mirrors as they zoom from the airport off to scenic pastures beyond the pale. As a “true blue Dubliner,” I’m here to tell you that Dublin has changed mightily since the eighties, when the city had a handful of restaurants and we all walked around in anoraks looking miserable, reminding the last person leaving the country ‘to please turn off the lights’. Dublin will offer all sorts of events this summer. Here are a few worth staying in town for:

Diversions Festival : Dance/ Movies/Music
The Temple Bar quarter is an area of cobblestones between the river Liffey and Dame Street. Billed as Dublin’s Left Bank, it’s bursting with pubs and restaurants, with some small art galleries interspersed. From mid-July through August, it’s home to the “Diversions” outdoor festival ( This one is a favourite of mine. At press time, the event schedule was still being finalized, so check the website listed below. Classic films are shown every Saturday evening, and there are dance & music shows on Thursdays and/or Fridays, all in the Meeting House Square, at the center of Temple Bar quarter. Film offerings this year include “Rear Window” and “Once Upon a Time in the West.”

If you have kids in tow, The Diversions Festival offers lots of workshops for children on dance, music and magic each Sunday from July 20th to August 24th (also in Meeting House Square). There’s also contemporary dance on the streets throughout the district, which kids and adults can watch and participate in, from Sunday August 10 – through Friday the 15th.

Happily, it’s all free. You do, however, need to get tickets for weekend concerts and films by visiting Temple Bar Properties on 18 Eustace Street from 9 – 5:30 Mon-Fri, or by showing up at Meeting House Square the night of the event. If you arrive at least 30 minutes early, you should be successful. Remember all events are outdoors, so bring rain coats (unless you prefer to simply retire gracefully to a pub in less clement weather conditions).

A schedule of events will be available at, or you can phone 011 353 1 677 2255.

Theater, New and Old

Dublin has many theaters, large and small. To sample some experimental work, try the Project Theater in Temple Bar or the Focus Theatre on Pembroke Road, home of Dublin’s method acting community (Gabriel Byrne trained here in his younger days). Schedules at these smaller theaters are made shortly before show openings, so call the numbers listed below for details.

At the height of the summer tourist season, the major theatres concentrate on new productions of well-known Irish plays. Here’s a list to check for schedules:

  • Project Theatre: 39 East. Essex Street, Temple Bar. 011 353 1 671 5717.
  • Focus Theatre: Focus Theatre, (off Pembroke Street) 011 353 1 676 3071.
  • Gate Theatre: 1 Cavensish Road 011 353 1 874 4085
  • Abbey Theatre: 26 Lower Abbey Street 011 353 1 878 7222
  • Gaiety Theatre: South King Street 353 1 679 5622

Kick Up Your Heels

If all this talk makes you feel like kicking your own heels up, there’s a céilí every Friday night organized by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eirann out in a beautiful old house on Belgrave Square in the suburb of Monkstown. It’s a one-hour staged show of Irish traditional music and dancing, with a free for all afterward. I was there with an American friend awhile back, and despite not having a single Irish step between the pair of us (I know, I’m disgraceful) we managed a couple of set-dances. It was good craic and definitely energetic. In Dublin this runs from Monday to Thursday every week in the same location. The organization is currently scheduling similar events throughout the country for summer. For more information, visit or call 011 353 1 280 0295.

For Literati

For James Joyce aficionados, the annual Bloomsday festival celebrates “Ulysses.” It usually Joyce Centre is at 35 North Great George’s Street. For details, visit, or call 011 353 1 878 8547.

Keeping to a literary theme, the international Dublin Writers’ Festival takes place at six different venues around the city in early June, with a good line-up of home-grown and international writers. Why not try catching one of the early morning poetry readings, before heading off for a nourishing, cholesterol-brimming Irish breakfast. I was privileged to attend the first poetry slam competition in Ireland a couple of years ago. We Irish were a bit surprised as American poets leapt from the stage and strode among the audience, dynamically acting out their poems. Five minutes later we were clamouring to be let on stage, and the poetry slam is now a regular and hugely popular feature of the festival. Details of all participants can be found on , or call 011 353 1 675 9816

Oscar Wilde said “I can resist everything except temptation”. So if you’ve been tempted, go ahead and try Dublin for a couple of days. I’ll be seeing you around the city for a pint then…