David Kitt

“I’m being forced to leave the country I love as I can’t afford to live in my hometown anymore,” wrote singer-songwriter David Kitt on his Facebook page this week, revealing that the Dublin house he lives in is being sold off.

“I don’t want to go. It feels like one of the best periods of creativity I’ve lived through in this city… Have we not learned anything from the last boom and bust cycle? It’s worse than the Celtic Tiger though and the price is too high in terms of people and culture.”

The Irish Times asked readers for their views and experiences. Do they think Dublin and other cities and towns around Ireland have become too expensive for artists, musicians and other creatives to live and work? Is the cultural vibrancy of the city being lost as a result? Below is a selection of responses we received (updated Wednesday).

Triona Humphries: ‘I had to change career to be able to afford the city’

Having worked in the arts for over ten years I have had to change career to be able to afford the city. My creative work now has to be squeezed into evenings and weekends. It’s not a solution I’m happy with and it’s hard not to consider leaving. I have lived in both Glasgow and Berlin, both cities where a lower cost of accommodation mean people can pursue creative careers.

I am upset for myself, my friends and colleagues in the arts, all of whom are struggling to pay ridiculous rents. I am also incredibly frustrated at how the arts get sidelined in a country known all over the world for its music, literature, theatre and visual arts. Artists make huge sacrifices to make the work that places Ireland on the map but there is a limit. Will Ireland continue to not provide affordable accommodation to its citizens and force its artists abroad while claiming the credit for their successes? Or can we find ways to tackle these issues?

Garrett Lombard: ‘I have never seen the situation as bad’

I am an actor living in Dublin for 20 years and I have never seen the situation as bad as it is now. So many artists are being forced to leave because it is impossible for them to afford the cost of living here. Once again we are seeing a drain of our culture and talent, once again we are seeing the very things we hold up as a shining example of Irishness being forced out our country due to what feels like a shunning of our heritage and tradition in the arts in favour of a capitalist and economic ideology. Barely a decade ago we witnessed the affect this ideology had on us as a nation and yet we seem to be striding the blast towards the same inevitability once more.

Aoife Scott: ‘Once you say musicians the phone is put down’    

I moved out of Dublin last October due to housing crisis.   Before that, myself and my musician partner lived with my parents in the Liberties for three years while we were on/off tour as we couldn’t afford a flat in Dublin. We live in an old gate lodge now, but we spend a good chunk of our wages on travelling to play gigs in Dublin daily. My partner doesn’t drive and he has to get a bus to a large hub, and then a taxi 12Km to our house, which costs €30 each way.  We spend hours in the car to get to small gigs but at the moment it’s the only way we can live.

We feel so lucky to have somewhere to live now. Originally we were looking for studio flats for both of us, with a bed in the kitchen for €1,400 a month. On the one time an estate agent answered our calls, we told them we were full time musicians, and never heard from them again. The judgement is unreal.   We don’t really drink, we don’t smoke, We’ve no pets. But yet once you say musicians the phone is put down.

Liam Hallahan: ‘It feels like I shouldn’t bother coming back to Ireland’

I’m a double emigrant. I moved to Ireland when I was 12, and now I’ve moved to the Czech Republic, where I work as a drama teacher for Prague Youth Theatre. After years of slogging out of college, living hand to mouth off dole payments and living at home, having an actual job in the arts as a drama teacher was too good to pass up. I also got the job off the back of an amazing drama facilitation training course, ArtsTrain, which was run by Youth Theatre Ireland, and has since been shut down by the CDETB because it wasn’t “creating jobs”.

Opportunities for training, for getting a meaningful employment as an artist in any capacity, are vanishing quickly. More and more, it feels like I shouldn’t bother coming back to Ireland, the country I consider my home. I have a better chance of making art and teaching drama in another country. Ireland needs to take care of its artists.

Lorcan Rush: ‘There are no graphic design jobs in rural Ireland’

I have lived in Dublin for nearly four years now. It is where my livelihood is. I have made relationships here. I see this city as my home. As a recent graduate from NCAD, I am already coming to the horrible realisation that I won’t be able to spend much more time here. Rent anywhere in Dublin is minimum €600 for a room. I am only 20 years old.  The average salary for a junior intern in a design studio is €250-350 a week (if you’re lucky). This alone would not fund both my living expenses and housing. Which means in order to pursue my creative endevours, I would have to take up a part-time job.

If I were to live abroad, perhaps in Rotterdamn or Berlin, I could live comfortably with cheaper rent. These cities also offer more for a young creative, including booming nightlife, government funded start-ups, cheaper materials, strong emphasis on the arts etc. There is nothing more I would like to do than stay here and give something back to the city that helped shape me both as a person and a creative. But alas I don’t see that happening; it’ll be a Ryanair flight to a new creative hub in Europe, or back to Co Wexford to wash dishes or wait tables. There are no graphic design jobs in rural Ireland. It’s Dublin or Dust.

Tadg McLoughlin: ‘I had to give up on my chosen profession’

Dublin has become too expensive for most people to live here. I came to Dublin seven years ago from Limerick as a photographer. While it wasn’t the ideal time for any career so precarious as photography, I was still encouraged by the fact that there were more jobs here than the rest of the country.

Seven years later I am no longer an artist. Ravenous Dublin rents and the high cost of trying to live here mean I had to give up on my chosen profession for something more stable; something that can survive the shock of an exorbitant rent increase at least. Now I have a good “normal” job in business administration, but I spend 33 per cent of my wages on rent, and I’ve moved four times in seven years, either because my home was being turned into an Airbnb, or because I could no longer afford the rent increases being pushed on me.

I know few artists left in Dublin. Those I do know are usually native Dubliners, able to rely on their parents for a place to live while they try and eke out a living. I don’t resent them for that, but it’s awful to see so many other creatives stifled and snuffed out by the sheer economic brutality of the city. If something doesn’t change, Dublin will be as sterile as the ugly sobriquet “Silicon Docks” makes it sound.

Fiona Dowling: ‘There is a distinct social cleansing going on in Dublin at the moment’

I work in admin, and my partner as a sales assistant. Dublin has become too expensive not just for artists but for most young people who are trying to get their feet on the ground after an eight year recession. Anyone working “normal” jobs, – for example in retail, hospitality, the service industry, manual labour or lower grade clerical/admin work – to try pay rent or support young children or live as a couple (or all of the above!) are being marginalised and made feel like failures for not picking a slicker degree or emigrating.

Anyone who chose to stay and weather the recession now has eight years of their life to make up for with little or no opportunity to save or up-skill. I am lucky enough to live in a house in Dublin bought by my partner during the recession for an excellent price because there was a hole in the roof and had no electricity or wiring. We are extremely lucky, but we are an anomaly not only on our terraced row but in the wider area; no young working class couples like ourselves own houses, and those renting are being forced to look further afield for more affordable rent, distancing them from their families and work lives.

The alternatives are even bleaker; they can move into a squashed sub-standard house share, or live in a shed in their parents’ backyard. I’ve also heard from friends time and time again that landlords are issuing them with notices to leave so that they can hike their rents way above the 4 per cent maximum. There is a distinct social cleansing going on in Dublin at the moment.

On top of that there are many people who once considered themselves artists but no longer see themselves that way as they try to pigeonhole themselves into paid roles or training programmes to which they are not suited. I qualified as a photographer seven years ago and tried to earn a living from it for two years thereafter, but it wasn’t long before it occurred to me that I would need to enter the workforce in order to survive. A five-day working week in an office has taken its toll on my creativity, and I no longer view myself as an artist.

John Tecuceanu: ‘We are seriously thinking of moving out of Dublin’

I’m originally from Romania. I lived in Bucharest for nine years, where I finished my studies and worked in PR for five years. In 2012, I decided I want to pursue something else, so I moved to Amsterdam, where I started busking to support myself. After one year in the Dutch capital, I moved to Dublin in 2013, because of its vibrant music scene and rich culture. I thought it would be a great place to grow as a musician, so I continued busking here, writing songs and playing gigs around town.

Then, a one-bedroom flat in Dublin 7 where a friend of mine was living was around €750. Today, the same flat is €1500. In 2014, my girlfriend moved here, so we rented a place of our own and we share the expenses, but it definitely has been harder in the past three years.

Last year I started hosting a music-related tour around Dublin to help boost my income. My girlfriend and I got engaged this year and we were thinking about a mortgage, but it’s impossible in Dublin, considering we need a savings account. She manages a coffee place in the city centre and I am still self-employed, so we don’t qualify for a loan.

We are seriously thinking of moving out of Dublin, maybe to Co Sligo, and start another life there. Going back to Romania is not an option, as the political and justice systems are so corrupt nowadays, it has become scary to live there.

Edana Gorham: ‘There’s an economic chain tightening around the neck of Dublin’s artistic community’

I’ve been involved in creative industries for about a decade. Dublin is falling prey to the maddening effect of creatives regenerating an area only to be priced out of it. Even in the “creative quarter”, rents are so high that Irish independent businesses have to leave.

Areas like Smithfield and Portobello have been enlivened by creatives. Art collectives have renovated derelict buildings or founded interesting shops, and once that culture is established the regenerated buildings and shops are passed off to the highest bidder. It’s an incredibly short sighted model that will end in a situation like they have in San Francisco, where only the mega rich can afford to live here, and rents and rates for businesses keep climbing so it ends up costing €12 for a packaged sandwich.

Combine that with a culture that undervalues art, is in the bottom three in Europe for arts funding per capita, and you have an economic chain tightening around the neck of Dublin’s artistic community. Artistic tourism is taking a big upswing and we were just starting to get some great traction, it’s pathetic that that is being sacrificed for short term gain that will ultimately ruin Dublin for everyone. Artist will be just the first to go.

Eoin Callanan: ‘It’s not too late to save Dublin’

Pretty soon it’s going to become too expensive for anyone to live, except the well off. Look at San Francisco and New York, and even London and Berlin: rents are being driven up and ordinary people being pushed out. It’s not too late to save Dublin, but something needs to happen ASAP.


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