Monday, September 17, 2012

From aspiration to reality

From Nesbitt’s, via Shay Beano’s to Sides, the Dublin of the 1980s was lean yet lively. On a greyish morning in 1986, the then chairman of the Irish Film Institute’s council, Kevin Rockett asked me to join him and director David Kavanagh to view a building on Eustace Street.

It was the Quakers’ Meeting House and it was an intriguing space – teeming with history and possibility. Just a few days later, on a Friday evening, 21 March 1986, we were hosting a reception in that same Meeting House to announce the IFI’s plans to establish a national centre for film.

All were excited, determined yet tentative because the highly ambitious plan involved serious money, ongoing financial support and subsidy and a lot of nerve.

I’d joined the IFI that year as Education Officer at a time of potential, ferment and action. The institute then resided at Harcourt Street - a fine building in itself but much too limited and limiting for its expanding activities. My in-service courses for art teachers and the screenings in the small viewing room at the top of the Harcourt Street building always prompted hopes for better space and screening facilities, and the photocopied notes and handouts anticipated more formal publishing initiatives.

The vision for a national centre for film culture were forged then by, among others, Luke Gibbons, Kevin Rockett, Donald Taylor Black and Niamh O’Sullivan - the only female member of the Council in those days - and their tenacity, insight and ambition informed all our undertakings and projects.

Following the move to Eustace Street, via a short sojourn in North Frederick Street, the building was no longer merely a building but a concept in the making.

The current third cinema was my office - well, a corner of it - which I shared with the Director. As well as benefit gigs and parties, the, as yet, unrenovated small cinema hosted a video programme by curator Chris Dercon with James Coleman, and a seminar on the 1987 “video nasties” Bill with Luke Gibbons, Kevin Rockett and Tom Cooney (ICCL) and myself. It was a taste of how the IFI was beginning to shape its future, informing and intervening in debates about film, media and visual culture.

Convinced of the value and significance of the film centre yet wary of the financial rigging, plans were hatched, brochures and publications proofed, funding applications written and rewritten - in an optimistic, visionary yet uncertain sense.

When I walk into the centre these days, the ghosts of those heady possibilities hover happily now that the centre is no longer an aspiration but a vital, growing and dynamic reality.

Stephanie McBride 
Education Officer at the IFI (1986-1987) and a member of the board of directors until 2009

IFI20 celebrations include the launch of the Film Focus report, commissioned by the Irish Film Board/Bord Scannáin na hÉireann in 2009 and undertaken by IFI Education with the support of the Arts Council. Film Focus report will be launched on September 26th to an invited audience of educators, industry professionals and key stakeholders.

No comments:

Post a Comment