This is a guest post by Naomi Linehan – best-selling author, Director of Communications at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and event enthusiast!

Dublin has seen something of a shift in culture over the past five years. Event organisers have started to use the city spaces in imaginative ways, creating a sense of community and connection with the artists and music.

If you’re organising a gig, an interesting or unusual venue is a key way to create an immersive experience that is memorable and engaging for the audience – something that generates a bit of buzz before and after the event. Before you choose a venue, it’s important to think about the kind of event you want to create and some of the key things to consider when bringing your gig or event to a non-traditional space.

Emmet Condon runs Homebeat, a company which creates independent, alternative, space-focused music promotion with their events company Heartfelt Event Production.

Homebeat image
(Image from Homebeat website)

Speaking about where the idea began, he says, “I guess the whole premise started out as a series of house concerts rooted in the physical and ideological space of informal and intimate musical experience.”

He points out that this is in contrast to a lot of the major traditional music venues, which tend to be bars first or might be used as both a bar and a performance space.

Condon says having a gig in a non-traditional space can change behaviour patterns, both for the performer and the audience because the setting and expectation are different to the norm, “there is a learned language of a space – a stage – a separation between performer and audience…In these venues, it creates a much more direct link between the audience and the artist.

“It also encourages audiences and artists to chat with each other. It creates a more immediate connection and a connection that wouldn’t normally be there in a traditional venue.”

When looking for a good venue for a gig, he says ‘it’s about trying to strike a balance between something that’s aesthetically pleasing, but without it being too grand or too reverent for the audience…Something that’s still in the Homebeat spirit, in really fantastic spaces.’ And of course, he says, it still comes down to getting the practical points right too – of ramps and access and facilities for attendees.

Here are some of the interesting venues emerging in Dublin:

The Freemason’s Hall – Number 17 Molesworth Street is an intriguing place. This is home to the Freemason’s Society in Dublin. If like me, you have a limited idea of what the Freemasons are, it conjures up images of knights and secret handshakes.

Up the old stone steps from Molesworth street and through the door, you find yourself in spacious halls called The Knights Templar Room or the Grand Lodge Room, filled with old paintings – portraits of freemasons on the walls, velvet curtains and stained glass.

It feels as though you are entering a secret world. Immediately the attendees are engaged. The intrigue of attending a gig at such a secretive venue in Dublin makes for one of the most memorable gig experiences. This is one that Homebeat have used in the past.

Homebeat image 2

(Image from Homebeat website)

The Pepper Canister Church – “Take Me to Church”, goes the song by Irish artist Hozier, and so they did. The Pepper Canister Church on Mount Street has been home to several gigs of late – Hozier once performing there to a sold-out audience, and recently Stimming and Lambert played there too. If you’re looking for something a bit different, this is another iconic landmark of the city, with acoustics and ambience to make for a very special occasion.

St Patrick’s Cathedral – The Cathedral’s unique atmosphere makes it an ideal venue for seated dinners, cocktail receptions, musical performances, and more. Glen Hansard recently played a sold-out gig here. Conveniently located near Dublin City Centre, the venue can be hired for evening events, with a hire pack available from their website.

The Unitarian Church – Situated on St. Stephen’s Green, this intimate venue has become a favourite with gig-goers looking for a different kind of experience. The organ is the main feature of this beautiful space, creating a sanctuary style feel to the experience – tucked away, just off the main thoroughfare of busy Grafton street.

SmockAlley Theatre -“If music be the fruit of love, play on!”A theatre set in an old boys’ school, on the banks of the Liffey, is an ideal venue for either an intimate gig, or something a bit bigger, with several different rooms to choose from. The main space is used for theatre, comedy and musical performances and can seat up to 178 people (with provision for 20 additional standing).

D-Light Studios – If you’re looking for something very different, D-Light Studios is a venue that can transform entirely to fit your needs. It’s an old converted mill-house on the northside of Dublin, just one minute from Connolly station, and near the five lamps area. It has become a favourite for event organisers.

guitar performance
(Image DLight website)

The big white stone wall of the mill-house provides a backdrop for creative light projections. In recent times it has hosted very different kinds of gigs. Emmet Condon of Homebeat described it as being an ideal space, with “a beautiful grandeur – a room with a sense of occasion.”

It also receives this endorsement from Sarah Byrne of Catapult Events Production & Design, “Stace and the team at D-Light were incredibly helpful during the lead up to our event in their unique venue. The space is one of a kind in Dublin, and a little creativity transforms it into something truly special”.

Marrowbone Books – there is a glow that comes from this little yellow bookshop on Merchants Quay in the heart of the Liberties. Inside this one room venue, you are immediately drawn to the titles lining the shelves on every wall. Old books, bright colourful rugs on the floor, a row of wine glasses on the windowsill, fairy lights, and an authenticity which highlights the love of books and music that the store’s proprietors have.

marrowbone books
(Image by Sam Tranum)

A small venue fitting approximately 25 people (sitting on chairs and on the floor), in this cosy setting the attendees lap up the intimacy of the bookshop as everyone gathers around the performer – who could be reciting poetry, singing, or revving up a good old-fashioned bluegrass jam.

Weston Airport

Hanging out in an airplane hangar is an experience you won’t get to try every day. This is a new and little-known event venue that was used in October 2017 by MCD to host a concert with Liam Gallagher headlining. The hangar is 4,000 square meters and is said to be able to cater for up to 5,000 people. It has also been home to several motor show events, showing the versatility of the space.

The Fumbally Stables – is a beautiful space with lots of potential. There are several different areas available to hire including the loft, the kitchen, the studio, and the long room.

The building harks back to 1750 and was originally a stable for the nearby breweries and distilleries in Blackpitts.

It has been used as a meat factory, a bakery, and most recently a photography studio.

The venue organisers say, ‘We have kept as many of the original features as possible and have tried to impose as little as we can, allowing the space to be created by the people and the events that happen.’ Event organisers have used the space for dinners, talks, creative events, performances, the list goes on. They are also very open to new ideas which is music to the ears of event organisers. Well worth a look.

The Mart in Rathmines

The Mart

The Mart Gallery is a converted old Fire Station. It was built in the early 20th century and has been a public library, a base for the civil defence, a family home, a fire station, and home to a flock of pigeons for a time until two artists decided to reinvent the space. It has two versatile spaces which are available to hire for creative events. This is a unique Dublin space which is said to be a “blank canvas” for those who hire it… leaving room for the potential to create a unique event experience.

There are also a myriad of non-traditional gig venues in outdoor spaces. The summer months have seen Dublin’s parks and gardens come to life with gigs across the city in recent years.

So, if it’s about location, location, location, there is plenty on offer in Dublin to discover for your next gig – think outside of the box and give your next event that immersive edge. For ideas on how to create a buzz on Instagram for those events, check out our Instagram Stories infographic.

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