The council’s joyless decision to remove stickers from lamposts is a kick in the teeth to local artists

Now more than ever, let Dublin be vibrant

Earlier this month, Dublin City Council made the decision to apply a special paint on over fifty lamp posts across the city centre in order to discourage the placement of stickers. Most of these poles are located in the Temple Bar area, which can be regarded as the heart of the arts scene within the city. On top of this, almost 250 poles around Dublin were scrubbed clean, removing the layers of stickers that have accumulated on their surface over the years. 

The council claimed this was a “serious issue”, an offence on public property that deserved their attention, time and money. Graffiti removal contractors were commissioned to tackle this really prominent, threatening occurrence. The harmless act of sticking a message on an otherwise boring metal pole has been met by the council with force as they actively sought out the masterpieces, only to tear them down, cover them up and prevent further artwork from adding a bit of life to a piece of silver. I wonder how much money has been pumped into this joyless project, while hundreds lie on the streets?

“Quite frankly, if you are offended by a sticker, I think it’s time to consider the reality of the serious and ever-declining situations within the city that are actually worth the time of day”

Many are left pondering why the choice was made in the first place. No one is particularly offended by the thousands of stickers around Dublin; even local business owners in Temple Bar were confused about the removal of the artwork. People have taken to social media to express their fondness for the pieces, and there are very few negative opinions on the matter. Quite frankly, if you are offended by a sticker, I think it’s time to consider the reality of the serious and ever-declining situations within the city that are actually worth the time of day. Would the people of Dublin rather see empty, shiny metal poles than a collection of memories, events, words and art? Is this more worthy of funding and spending time on than the homeless crisis, which, as statistics show, is the worst it has been in years?

Further, this decision is a further blow to the art scene of Dublin. An already underfunded and underappreciated sector in the country, artists are making a name for themselves through street art, murals and stickers. Dublin is well-known for its art scene. From the times of the writers and poets who created the canonical stories that are still passed down today to the contemporary creators and painters who transform areas such as Grand Canal Dock into a space bursting with colour, we are surrounded by talent, culture and creativity. Deciding to scrape off stickers and prevent further display is a kick in the teeth to all artists. Creative outlets and spaces that allow people to display their talent have been unjustifiably taken away.

Dubliners are not happy with this decision.  

If you’ve ever walked through the city, you will know the significance that these stickers hold not just for those printing and displaying them but for everyone who walks past and sees them. They add character to the already bustling streets. Seeing the wide and diverse selection of stickers during your daily commute is like going on a walking tour of the city, with every pole bringing a new creation. There are messages of hope, political statements, works of art and humorous drawings. From “Blow Job” written in an arrowed heart to quotations such as “we are only a moment” the diversity of the stickers seen throughout the city is vast. The simplistic nature of these small stickers can have a lasting effect on those walking past, often without them ever realising. They can be usual meeting points, easily recognisable “I’ll meet you at the lamp with the sticker of the snail waving on it.” These stickers also provide a low-cost way of announcing up-and-coming events for local bands, DJs, artists and other creatives. This way of advertising without charge also enables a wider audience to be reached.

“These stickers are landmarks and monuments; they’re part of the city. Small, yet colossal in effect”

During my second year of college, Covid was still rife, so as a way to occupy the body and mind, my flatmates and I walked around the city almost every day. It was here when I first noticed the surplus of stickers on lamposts. Only a few lines long, one particular poem really stuck with me. Displayed along the Liffey, it read: “You’re not there yet, love. / But you’re here. / And isn’t that something? / Isn’t that something worth / fighting for?” This poem left a mark on me. I would actively seek out stickers on every post, pole and lamp I passed daily, looking for further words of inspiration in what was a tough time for me mentally. I began to realise the importance of slowing down and taking in what’s around you. We are very fast-paced in the city. We often forget the importance of the little things. The stickers are a reminder to look up from your phone. They are a breath of fresh air in our busy day-to-day lives. They are at the traffic lights when you’re stopped in a rush, breathlessly waiting to cross. They catch your eye, making you smile, making you think. These stickers are landmarks and monuments; they’re part of the city. Small, yet colossal in effect.

Poet and local writer of the aforementioned quote, G.M. Elinor, spoke to Trinity News about the importance of this element of art within the city and the effect that it can have on different people. She said: “I know what it’s like to have bad days and feel alone in a city of people, so I wanted to do something to show people they’re not alone at all. Not really…  It shows you just how human and connected we all are. We all feel the same things, and you’d be surprised at who can relate to what goes on in your head.”

The fun-sucking scheme has not been well-received amongst those in the artistic community and beyond. Carl Foran is the face behind the Instagram account @stickerzofdublin, a page dedicated to posting photos of what he describes as the “mini masterpieces” dotted around the city. Foran said: “When I am talking about the stickers of Dublin, I am talking about the heart and soul of Dublin, the people, the artists, the creatives, the walkers, the strollers, the stare-ers.” He told of how from noticing the stickers on poles he has, in turn, become connected with many other artists, allowing the network of creative people within the city to grow and flourish. Considering the decision of the council, Foran stated: “Sticker-proof paint can be added on poles, but art will always find a way and will always emerge victorious in the end.”

In the words of Elinor: “Sticker slapping has been going on for decades, so the council banning it on lamp posts or whatever won’t stop it… sticker culture isn’t going anywhere fast. Just like street art isn’t either. Whenever they take away its home, it will always find a new one.”