“Compared to the UK and Europe, Dublin is so far behind in terms of culture,” says Diarmuid McCleary, as he reaches for his coffee mug and sits back into the snug couch in the common area of The Clockwork Door. McCleary himself is the creator and organiser of events around Dublin such as Drink and Draw, Neon Nude Life Drawing, and many alternative walking tours of the city. McCleary got his start during his time working in the Student’s Union in D.I.T, where he helped organise creative events for the college’s Art Society: “We almost won the best new society in Ireland. We came runner up but still continued to do workshops and stuff because we were just loving what we were doing.” McCleary later came to national attention as he travelled through different countries carrying a microwave in aid of the charity Jigsaw and to raise money for Robyn’s Life, a trust set up to raise funds for a young girl called Robyn, who was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma in 2007. Upon returning to Dublin in October 2018, McCleary was met with the difficulty of finding employment: “I went to do interviews for charities because I wanted to do fundraising. They wouldn’t hire me and I heard back from one of them and they were like, “you’re a bit of a loose cannon”, so I realised I couldn’t get a job.” Looking back on his college days then, McCleary was inspired to relaunch his creative events, hosting them initially in The Clockwork Door, before reaching out to other venues to use their space. “I just started organising events, and then I thought, okay, people are willing to pay money for this, so we started doing events like Fleetwood Mac VS Queen nights where people could paint and listen to music, and then it went from okay, this sold out in like, ten minutes, so let’s take up the price, and then again…”
McCleary’s idea of providing a creative space for people in Dublin has now grown into hosting a myriad of different events around the city centre, including Gin & Jewels, Prosecco & Pottery, and a Dublin Night Photowalk. When discussing the process of organising these events, McCleary describes how he consults with different venues throughout Dublin: “I generally approach venues and just pitch them our idea and say, ‘Do you want to do something different?’ And people will come in and have a good time — free advertising and people even buy a few drinks… So now at the minute we have them in like, fourteen different counties in Ireland, and have regular events in them.”
“On our tour we talk about the nightclub scene, how all the buildings are closing down, all the creative spaces… Some of the guys that work for us even live in hostels because renting is too expensive.”
This naturally brings the conversation to the topic of ‘pop-up’ culture in Dublin, and how rent prices make it nearly impossible to be able to have a permanent space to host most of these events. “The whole pop-up thing is getting a lot bigger, because people can’t afford to do anything else, especially in Dublin, Dublin is being squeezed out,” he says. “On our tour we talk about the nightclub scene, how all the buildings are closing down, all the creative spaces… Some of the guys that work for us even live in hostels because renting is too expensive.” McCleary is thankful to be lucky enough to be able to have obtained a studio office space in Harold’s Cross, and a space on George’s Street where he holds his Arts Bar events. But, he laments the difficulty for small businesses to have any success within the property market: “There’s just a lack of spaces, so we generally do events in places when they’re closed… It’s hard being a small independent business in Dublin right now. I know a few people that have their own venues and… It’s not easy. You rely on organic marketing while other people rely on massive paid-search campaigns and stuff.’
Despite this, McCleary makes it an aim of the organisation to highlight the hidden culture of Dublin, and incorporates it into different events, such as his alternative walking tours: “We don’t take them anywhere around a tourist map, instead I bring people around to spots I’ve worked in, all around the city centre.” On the Street Art Tour of Dublin, Good Vibrationz recruit local artists to host tours around the city and talk about the art: “There seemed to be one of these in every other city in Europe but there wasn’t one in Dublin before we started it.” With regards to more hands-on artistic activities, McCleary has come up with a way of spreading Irish culture abroad. “One of the things we do when people come here is a thing called Paint the Dublin Skyline. So I made a design of the Dublin skyline, and we get people to paint it, and we give them canvas boards so they can put it in their suitcase and take it home. So, people are coming here experiencing the city and they’re painting Dublin, taking it home and putting it on their wall. We get people messaging us being like “Hey look at my painting!” and I’m like “Yes it’s in Denmark!”’ The Good Vibrationz’ Gin & Jewels event where you make your own jewellery also features Celtic pendants that tourists can take home and wear.
Another important feature of these Good Vibrationz events as a whole, according to McCleary, is the concept of storytelling. Not only does he organise a sober storytelling occasion where his main job is to convince people to get up and share stories, he relates the sense of relief that it causes some people to feel: “And at the end of the event, some of the people who get up are ones who said they never would, and they tell me that it was the best feeling ever.” McCleary also draws importance from the fact that storytelling and memories are a huge part of his walking tours. When talking about the Night Photowalk in Dublin that Good Vibrationz runs, he described it as “taking people around the city at night and teaching them how to take a photograph. We do shoots, and they get the pictures, so yeah making memories.” The walking tours are full of spontaneity and surprises, often going places that neither the guides nor the tourists expected them to.
“He emphasises how it encourages people to go to places they’ve never been before, and encourages other people then to go to these places after seeing his crowd of tourists in there.”
McCleary himself is a natural-born storyteller, and when I bring up the issue of googling the name ‘Good Vibrationz’ he laughs and tells me an anecdote behind it: “If you google it the first thing that comes up is the adult shop on Capel Street… But the funny thing is that I did an interview with a radio station and they were trying to ring me, but they rang up the adult shop and they were like, ‘We’re looking to talk to Diarmuid’ and the guy answered … ‘Oh, I don’t know who that is’… Anyway the conversation went on for like a minute or two and he was like ‘You know we’re an adult shop’, so now I include Good Vibrations, the adult shop, as part of my alternative Dublin tour, and the guy who owns it tells the tourists the story about the radio, he used to be a priest and now he runs an adult shop.” He emphasises how it encourages people to go to places they’ve never been before, and encourages other people then to go to these places after seeing his crowd of tourists in there. “When they go into the shop they have a reason to go in because we’re there. And I’ll just like, pick up a dildo and throw it at them”, he laughs.
“’…It’s all about connection as well, we want people to come and talk to people on their table. We make everybody toast everyone on your table, you have to say hello to them, like if you don’t you’re gonna have a hard time having a good time.’”
The events themselves, however, are extremely catered towards a generally-mixed audience with an emphasis on engagement and social enjoyment without the distraction of technology. McCleary mentions that for their popular Drink & Draw events in particular, their aim is to “basically forget about life, relax, paint, have a bit of fun. It’s all about connection as well, we want people to come and talk to people on their table. We make everybody toast everyone on your table, you have to say hello to them, like if you don’t you’re gonna have a hard time having a good time.” The ultimate goal for these events is to generate good vibes and an enjoyable atmosphere: “Every event is really positive. Negativity is completely blocked out. Like if someone was being bad, we’d just give them the money back and ask them to leave… it’s not an art class, it’s an art party!”
McCleary discourages the use of mobile phones during these events, and also rewards the attendees with prizes for good engagement with the event itself: “Whoever does something different wins a prize. It’s kind of to encourage people, and one of our top prizes is a toilet brush. So it’s really funny when we finish up and go to different venues after like the Globe and there’s ten people who are dancing with canvases and one of them has a toilet brush in the air. It’s getting people out of their comfort zone.” As well as this, McCleary states that Good Vibrationz holds events catered towards people who don’t drink, “We do a lot of non-alcoholic events, so we have one called Drink Tea & Draw, so you can basically have the madness of our event, of winning prizes and dancing, but in a sober space.”
The company also has a focus on mental health, and they’re often booked to bring their Drink Tea and Draw events to schools and colleges, allowing students to immerse themselves creatively and forget about everything other than the activity at hand. On the topic of feedback, McCleary articulated that “We’ve definitely gotten a lot of very positive lovely messages from people and we keep a lot of them on a little sheet … People will send us messages saying thanks so much, not wanting anything from me, just to say thanks…that is class.”
“Good Vibrationz’s ethos on the whole is thus highlighting the importance of connection and forming new friendships in a space that generates pure positivity and overall Good Vibez.”
What’s next at Good Vibrationz? McCleary mentions that they are looking to launch more events in Galway, branded as Alternative Galway, in the near future, as well as launching in Edinburgh before the end of February, in addition to an arts festival in Dublin at the beginning of summer. On top of this, Good Vibrationz/ Alternative Dublin are looking to focus more on corporate events: “We’re gonna push for more corporate events and spread good vibes. You know, be sound, have a laugh, have a dance.” Good Vibrationz’s ethos on the whole highlights the importance of connection and forming new friendships in a space that generates pure positivity and overall Good Vibez.