Ireland is known for it’s craic, and the music in particular. nearly every pub we entered advertised music at least some nights of the week, and people from all over the world flock to observe and, nearly as often, to participate. I met quite a few people who’d come to Ireland to try busking, in search of a break from “real life,” or looking to make life out of it while it lasted. two of the people I met in Drogheda illustrated these two points (not necessarily “extremes,” but they certainly looked at the experience differently). one, Katerina, was new to the prospect of busking, while the other, Owen, had been at it for quite a bit longer.
Katerina arrived the day after I did, bypassing Dublin. she grew up in a small town, had never spent any time away from home, and at twenty-two, decided she’d like a change. she’d gotten sick of her job working in a bank in Norway, saved up some money, bought a plane ticket to Ireland and quit. she didn’t have any connections, or even an instrument, but she could sing quite well and had a flexibility in disposition that seemed to bode well for the vagaries of busking. she stayed in Drogheda couple of days before deciding to move on. before she left, Norm (the guy running the hostel), called up a friend of his in Galway, where she was headed, and helped her find a lead on a job.
Owen, on the other hand, had been in Drogheda quite some time. he’d been staying at the Green Door previously, but had recently moved to another B&B down the road, where he played some nights in the restaurant downstairs, in exchange for a room and a bit of money. he’d grown up in Australia, but his family was Irish and he’d spent a great deal of time in Ireland growing up. during some days, he’d take his guitar down to Dublin and play along Grafton Street, or wherever. he went down to Dublin the same day as I and arrived just in time for the first downpour; consequently, he didn’t make much more than the bus fare to get to Dublin and back.
if any of you out there are musically inclined and looking to make a career or life change, busking in Ireland might not be a bad way to go about it.
during the afternoon I spent in Dublin, I managed to see quite a bit of the city centre. one of the most colorful draws for tourists is Temple Bar, which runs south of the the River Liffey. it retains a medieval character to it, since the streets are very narrow and many of them cobbled. the area is promoted as a cultural quarter, and is great for music. Handel’s Messiah was performed for the first time in Fishamble Street, and a performance of the same is held annually.
the area declined in popularity during the19th century, which saved it to a great extent from the wrecking balls of developers. its unpopularity lead to further decay in the 20th century, when a proposal emerged to level much of the area to make way for a bus terminus. while the planning proposal moved forward, buildings were let out at low rents, and the area began to fill up again, with musicians and artists and other bohemian-hippie types. protests led to the cancellation of the project and in the early 90s a non-profit organization was set up to further revitalization projects. it’s worked pretty well, though Temple Bar does have a reputation for raucous Stag and Hen Parties (which, allegedly, were banned in 1999). there’s a plethora of pubs, like Gogarty’s (seen in the picture) that host noteworthy traditional music sessions. there’s even the TradFest music & culture festival (taking place the last weekend in January next year, if anyone’s inclined).