In one of the finest examples of the phrase ‘one man's trash is another man's treasure’, a staff member in UCC had a genius idea to sell some of the university’s social history and alumni have been quick to buy them.
UCC’s Old Bar was a space that held many fond memories for former students, from first dates to quiz nights with new lifelong friends as well as a place to celebrate or lament exam results. Its hot chicken rolls are still spoken about in a hushed, reverent whisper.
The bar pulled its last pint in 2016, after 30 years at the heart of the student community. In its place, a space for previously unmet student services now exists beside the new Student Hub.
During a visit to the Old Bar before it was transformed into that new space, head of visitor services JP Quinn says he spotted a loose piece of flooring and pocketed it out of nostalgia.
“I just picked it up, put it in my pocket, and brought it back over to my office in the Visitor Center and put it on the wall,” he says.
“Somebody came in that afternoon and said, ‘what's that dirty piece of wood on the wall?’ I said it was part of the floor of the old college bar, that it was loose and I just took it as a momento. The guy said to me, ‘I'd love one of those’ and the light bulb went off in my head.”
The fruit of Quinn’s efforts was shared on social media yesterday when he tweeted a picture of a framed piece of flooring and added they were now on sale. The response was beyond what he had imagined.
“I just sent a tester out there and it just exploded. I had people emailing me from all around the world and on Twitter and they were nearly sending me their CV to justify getting a piece of flooring.
“The first 100 sold straight away and then the second 100 sold out so we're managing different batches. We've created something tangible from a virtual space that no longer exists and it's going back to support University.
“These frames are going to be on people's walls around the world, a little piece of UCC away from home. I had one fella get onto me who said he's getting married next year, and he has four groomsmen and a best man and he wants five of them to give them as presents because the best nights they had were when they were in there dancing when they were students.
“There’s a great history in the place. You've had the likes of the Cranberries play there and Gavin Friday and various other bands that came up through the 1970s and the 1980s and a lot of comedians were there over the years. We have a great history there and this is one way of connecting our students that were there with that history.”
He says the response shows how connects UCC’s former students still feel to the campus.
The idea was influenced by UCC’s sustainability efforts, Quinn says.
“We're eighth in the world in supporting sustainable development goals in the United Nations and a big part of that is our commitment to sustainability so we’re very clued in to be thinking about these kinds of things. When I saw that stuff I said there could always be another purpose.
“We actually make and sell our own honey as well from our own beehives on our land. We also grow our own vegetables which we use in all our restaurants as well. This is just another example of our entire commitment as an organisation to sustainability and renewable energy.”
Proceeds from the sale of the Old Bar floorboards will go towards the new autistic-friendly project taking place where the bar once existed.
“We didn't have specific spaces which would cater to students with certain challenges, particularly autistic students that might need a calm space or a space with low lighting, or students, for example, who need to be fed through a tube need to have private spaces, or students who take injections on a daily basis,” Quinn says.
“We’re using that space to create a synergy with the new Student Hub. I thought this is a great way to support the autistic-friendly project, we can generate some income from that to offset some of the costs of doing these projects.”
Although 200 pieces of the floor have been sold, Quinn says he has plenty of material to meet the high demand.
“I have every single piece of floorboard. I did not waste one piece so we're going to keep going in batches. If people want pieces they just need to email email@example.com and we'll get in touch with them when we have them.”
Above all, Quinn is looking forward to meeting students and visitors once more as the Visitor Centre reopened yesterday after 13 months of remote working.
“The Visitor Centre has reopened and we look forward to welcoming people back to campus to visit us and hear our stories.”