Meet the volunteers who are cleaning up parts of rundown Cork city

For the past year, a group of volunteers sharing a passion for Cork has been transforming parts of the city which have long been neglected and left in ruin, writes Kevin O'Brien.

Reimagine Cork have rejuvenated old buildings, given old laneways a make-over and even cleaned street signs and old phone boxes. Gradually, given the support from the public and the growing number of volunteers willing to pitch in with the workload, the ideas have become bigger and better.

Originally forming as Cork Old Town District Action Committee (or CODAC) with the objective of rejuvenating North Main St and its side lanes and alleys, the group decided to rebrand as Reimagine Cork and incorporate more areas of the city, while also encouraging other organisations, businesses and people to get involved. 

Local artist Alan Hurley has worked on many of the groups projects and painted the portraits of Corks famous 1916 figures on Kyle St. He has been an integral part of the group since its formation and has witnessed the surge in momentum behind Reimagine Corks mission to improve the city.

"The reaction of people has been fantastic. We always have people congratulating us and thanking us. I even got a lotto ticket from a stranger last week who said I hope this brings you good luck and thanks for cleaning up the city," he says.

Explaining how Reimagine Cork works, Mr Hurley went on: "We identify sites that are derelict, in need of a bit of TLC and we ask our group of volunteers if they have any ideas for a project at the location. Then we will seek permission from the council and if they like our idea, well get to work using whatever materials we can find," he adds.

Many businesses and organisations have also shown support, whether by donating funds for materials or by taking a more hands on approach.

A mural depicting the siege of Cork in 1690 was recently supported by local radio station Red FM and painted by the artist Peter Martin. It is located on the Kyle Street side of the well-known shop Peg Twomeys on Cornmarket St.

For Mr Hurley, the aim of projects like the mural is to bring attention to the history of Cork in a way that is engaging and improves the appearance of the area.

"The siege of Cork is a massive event in the citys history. I didnt know much about it so when I heard we were doing the project I looked up the history and thought to myself - how come more people dont know about this and how come I didnt know about it?"

The Construction Industry Federation has also offered their services to the cause. They have recently assisted on projects with the group and are also taking part in the Lighting the Laneways initiative.

Meet the volunteers who are cleaning up parts of rundown Cork city

"The CIF are going to take laneways in the city that we propose and are going to add lights to make them safer for people to use," Alan explained.

One such place where street lights are to be installed is Colemans Lane between North Main St and Grattan St.

For the past several months, Alan and his army of Reimagine Cork volunteers have been transforming the laneway from a state of neglect, into a place which is full of life. They have painted designs on the walls, built flower boxes from wooden pallets and placed colourful plants from end to end of the lane.

Meet the volunteers who are cleaning up parts of rundown Cork city

Discussing Colemans Lane, Alan adds: "This lane has been derelict since Munster Furniture burned down next door in 2008. Since then people have been using the lane for the wrong reason. On one of our first days working down here, I saw two people taking drugs.

"I havent seen it since and hopefully it wont happen again. The idea for us was to take a laneway that had fallen to ruin and bring some colour and some life to it and get more people down there. In some ways its like a social project where we are trying to improve the area and make the lane safer," he adds.

For Alan support from the city council has also helped Reimagine along in their mission.

"If you can imagine a group of unqualified people going to the city council and asking can we paint this, can we paint that, youd imagine theyd tell us to go away. But they saw instantly the positive things we were doing and realised we were serious about what we do and what we want to do. Were totally in this to improve Cork and its lovability, and to make it a nicer, safer place to be".

Alan and Reimagine Cork hope to bring the good work that has been done on Colemans Lane to other neglected streets, alleys and lanes in the city. They also have other projects in progress and even more planned for the coming months.

Meet the volunteers who are cleaning up parts of rundown Cork city

These include working to improve the appearance of George Booles house in Grenville Place while it awaits redevelopment, the aforementioned Lighting the Laneways and also their Educators of Corkproject on the façade of No. 64 North Main St.

The Educators project consists of a window exhibition celebrating Corks leaders in education and has portraits as well as short biographies of George Boole and Nano Nagle on display, with more to be added soon. When its finished it is hoped that the window will feature more modern and local educators.

The group hope to run a competition on social media where members of the public can nominate a teacher to be included in the exhibition.

"We're going to put the word out to the public for people to nominate a teacher who they feel impacted on their life in a positive way. Then we can either have their photograph or a bit of info about them, or even a quote. We want to give recognition to people who deserve it."

Meet the volunteers who are cleaning up parts of rundown Cork city

With Reimagine Cork continuing to build on their achievement to date, exciting times lie ahead for Cork city.

If you would like to get involved, visit reimaginecork.com and find out how you can help by

volunteering or by donating materials. You can also follow their progress on twitter, Instagram and facebook @reimaginecork.


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