Thursday, July 05, 2007

Debates - Old City, New Dreams

Last week I attended a few debates/discussions which were held as part of The Dubliner week-long event Old City, New Dreams (unfortunately the link on their website seems to be gone now). The debates were hour-long sessions, lots of participation from the audience was encouraged and there were two each evening (with a free cocktail reception inbetween - one of the main sponsors was Diageo and the free cocktail was a foul Smirnoff concoction, I heard someone mention pomengranate and someone else said watermelon. Either way, it tasted like those free cocktails people give you in places like Playa del Ingles to try and lure you into the pubs they're working for. Awful stuff, even my brother wouldn't drink it!) I wish I had taken notes so that I could give a better account but it didn't occur to me until afterwards that it'd be interesting to blog about.

The first one I attended was supposed to be one of the focal points of the week and was called Old City, New Dreams (as the event was). It was a more light-hearted one where eight people on the panel (I'd even heard of some of them :) ) each had four minutes to present a radical idea to completly change life in Dublin. Most of them rambled on a bit more than that without really getting to a point. Some were total pisstakes (or at the very least thought up of at very late notice), some very, very serious and some interesting but generally impractical. It was a fairly unbalanced mix and I got the feeling that the people who were on the panel had not really been given much in the way of pointers or preparation help for the type of level the idea should be at.

After the first round, the audience voted for the four ideas they liked best and those four people got to spend another two minutes elaborating on their ideas. Most of them didn't seem to have much to add to be honest and as the facilitator wasn't really very good at keeping things running along it was all very rushed at the end. The very serious and worthwhile suggestion for mental health visitors to be made available to families with children won the day. I can't remember what was second but I think it was what I voted for - a change in attitude and a "love" campaign. The guy was aiming for a campaign similar to the famous I heart NY one in the 80's but the facilitator (who thought he was very funny but kind of wasn't - you know the type I'm talking about don't you? Everyone has met one at least once!) kept making comments about "free sex for all" which is just a bit different. I probably still would have voted for that, but heh, I'm a single gal with needs. :)

One of the suggestions made which was voted out in the first round was to build a roof over Grafton St and Henry St. These are the two main shopping streets in Dublin. Fergal Quinn, who founded the once excellent Superquin chain of supermarkets (I've lost a bit of faith in them recently given the amount of imported food, especially fruit and veg, they now sell) made this suggestion to improve the shopping experience for people. When his suggestion was voted down the facilitator seemed surprised and I offered the viewpoint from the floor that the reason for it was that shopping does nothing to enhance the cultural life of the city. He made some snide remark about how I wouldn't feel that way when I'm shopping but offered me no chance to say anything more which did irritate as I feel it's an important point. Ah well. As mentioned it was generally a light-hearted event. Probably could have gotten more out of it if it had been better organised but it was something different to do of an evening. It seems to be time I paid more attention to my intellectual side so attending events like this are a good way to do that.

We also attended the second debate that evening on whether nuclear power is the way forward for Ireland. And on Thursday I went to the "What is Irish cooking" debate which was also very interesting. More on those, plus my one local summer meal for this week to come later.

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