St. Patrick's Festival, Dublin
St. Patrick's Festival, Dublin - ©Miguel Mendez from Malahide, Ireland, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Dublin City Council Culture Company

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City Government

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Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2016

Connecting people through culture and conversation

Established by Dublin City Council in 2016 as a pilot, Dublin’s Culture Connects was an active experiment in the Agenda 21 for culture and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The inclusion of culture as a core development objective for the first time across all actions of the Council’s work denotes a subtle shift recognising its central role. In March 2018, the Council formalised this structure through the creation of Dublin City Council Culture Company to run cultural initiatives and buildings across the city for the Council and the people of Dublin.

Universal access for citizens and community participation in all programmes is ensured through pro-active engagement and outreach, facilitating groups, identifying barriers and supporting additional requirements for participation, and all activities are financially supported directly by Dublin City Council to ensure equality of access and social inclusion.

In some instances, creating first-time cultural opportunities for communities who’ve not previously participated in cultural activities fundamentally contributes to the formation of a sustainable cultural ecosystem.

This study case has been elaborated on the basis of a good practice provided by the City of Dublin and promoted by the Committee on Culture of United Cities and Local Governments. The original document can be found here.


Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Dublin, Ireland

Size and population development
Data from the 2016 census released by the Central Statistics Office recorded the city of Dublin’s population at 554,917. The city covers a surface area of 117.8 square kilometers with a population density of 4,811 people per square kilometer. The population of the Greater Dublin Area was recorded at 1,904,806 and is estimated to reach more than 2 million in 2021.

Population composition
Since the late 1990s, Dublin has experienced a significant level of net immigration, with the greatest numbers coming from the United Kingdom, Poland and Lithuania. There are also notable groups from Brazil, India, the Philippines, China and Nigeria. According to 2016 census data, the population of Dublin was 86.2% white including white Irish [86.2%], other white [13.2%] and [0.5%] white Irish traveller, 2% black and 4.6% Asian. Additionally, 2.7% are from other ethnic or cultural background, while 4.9% did not state their ethnicity. In terms of religion, 68.2% identified as Catholic, 12.7% as other stated religions, with 19.1% having no religion or no religion stated.

Main functions
Dublin is the largest city and capital of Ireland and is the location of the national parliament and most of the civil service. The city is situated at the mouth of the River Liffey that divides the city in two - the Northside and the Southside. Irelands transport network emanates from the city and Dublin Port is responsible for a large proportion of Ireland’s import and export trade. Dublin has a significant literary history and has produced many literary figures (including Nobel Laureates William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett) and in 2010 was named as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Main industries / business
The Greater Dublin area is the economic centre of Ireland. In 1987 the International Financial Services Centre was established, and more than 500 operators have been approved to trade under the IFSC programme. The Centre hosts half of the world’s top 50 banks and half of the top 20 insurance companies. Moreover, in the 1990s a programme of economic incentives to attract foreign businesses was launched and many global ICT companies established offices in the city including Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter and Tik Tok. Traditional industries such as food processing, textiles, manufacturing, brewing and distilling have declined.

Sources for city budget
The City council’s budget comes from grants from the central government, and income from commercial rates, services, social tenants’ rent. Following the abolition of domestic property rates in the late 1970s, local councils found it extremely difficult to raise money. Since 1999, Motor Vehicle Tax is paid into the Local Government Fund, established by the Local Government Act 1998, and is distributed on a "Needs and Resources" basis. In 2013, a local property tax was introduced to provide funding for local authorities.

Political structure
As the capital city, Dublin is the seat of the national parliament of Ireland and has been the home of the Irish parliament since the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922.

Administrative structure
Dublin City Council is the authority responsible for local government in the city of Dublin. The council is responsible for housing and community, roads and transportation, urban planning and development, amenity, culture and environment. The Council has 63 elected members. Elections are held every five years using proportional representation by means of the Single transferable vote. The council is presided over by the Lord Mayor, who acts as chair of the Council and is elected for a yearly term and resides in Dublin's Mansion House. The city administration is headed by a Chief Executive, who is responsible for implementing City Council decisions and shares executive power with the Council.

Dublin’s cultural infrastructure is its people. Rooted in oral traditions, cultural life is deeply and personally felt, and experienced close to home. Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature and home to 182 languages and is starting to explore its linguistic and intercultural diversity: alongside refreshing use of the Irish language.

Dublin’s cultural framework has been influenced by the national agenda. The largest city by far in a small country and home to much of the cultural infrastructure, national priorities have a major impact on the local approach to culture. Dublin’s tenure as European Capital of Culture 1991 changed that, and the city began to forge a cultural path, looking to address urban cultural issues not experienced elsewhere in Ireland.

In 2015, Dublin City Council entered the European Capital of Culture competition for a second time. While unsuccessful, the city was motivated and energized by the tangible civic engagement and energy generated in the bid consultation. It also recognized the potential benefits of a more culturally active citizenry and wanted to build on the momentum.

In late 2015, the City Council developed a cultural strategy (2016-2021) that acknowledged the impact of culture on all aspects, including the economy, education, tourism, community and civic life. The Cultural Strategy focuses on:

  • Positioning culture, creativity and creative industries as central for global competitiveness as a modern European city;
  • Increasing cultural participation and practice through partnerships in formal and informal education, and planning and delivering improved cultural infrastructure;
  • Continuing to increase the resources available to cultural expression through public and private investment as part of social, economic and tourism development.


Dublin City Council Culture Company employs culture to connect citizens to the city and to each other, with the aim of benefitting both the people and the place. This aim is underpinned by our values:

  • Relevance – Embedding culture in everyday life, activities and place.
  • Participation – Making and doing makes culture ‘real’.
  • Partnership –Acting as a catalyst, bringing different actors together
  • Capacity building – Willing to develop skills and activate ways of working that enable everyone to create more opportunities.
  • Quality – Accessing and using skills, experience and knowledge to build impact, sustainability and quality.

These main actions were implemented from 2016 - mid 2019 by the original pilot, Dublin’s Culture Connects and subsequently the newly established Dublin City Council Culture Company. More programmes and cultural buildings will increase the Company portfolio based on the same holistic approach, and a new five-year Company strategy was launched in September 2019.


Tea & Chats - Everything starts with a Cup of Tea.

Tea & Chats is the starting point for all our programmes, allowing us to connect with people, find out what is going on for them locally in their place, community and in their lives.

This process uses easily accessible language, is not outcome led, and happens at the time and in the place where people are already gathered. Our approach is constantly evolving with experience and the process is never complete. Citizen consultation is the foundation on which Dublin City Council Culture Company is formed, and engagement actions are continuous.


Culture Club

Culture Club was established in response to regular citywide mentions by citizens during Tea & Chats that cultural venues ‘are not for the likes of me’, or other barriers of entry.

Dublin’s Culture Connects piloted a simple idea, with the National Museum of Ireland, of connecting citizens to Dublin’s national cultural institutions and other cultural venues to foster cultural curiosity and encourage a strengthened cultural life. We match people with tailor-made tours given by a curator or expert and follow the tour with a ‘Tea&Chat’ to share their thoughts. It is this specific personal invitation, hosting and facilitation which creates this pathway to cultural participation. For many institutions, this connection is a rare opportunity for audience feedback.


Fundraising Fellowship Dublin

The City Council strengthened four cultural organisations by giving them the resources to engage a full-time person in the area of fundraising and sponsorship. Two years of training and support with experts and peers was provided, increasing the impact of their cultural organisations, expanding their own career opportunities, and generating learning with others by appointing them as mentors to local community organisations. Fundraising Fellowship Dublin concluded at the end of 2018. The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has decided to adopt the model created and support a national roll out of this programme in 2019 and onwards.


EU Lab

The development of cultural ideas which support local communities and also have resonance internationally, by supporting the municipality in identifying areas of common activities and trends across Europe. Increasing participation in European funding programmes, preparing relevant cultural projects in response to calls for funding, and meeting the strategic objectives of the European Commission supports Dublin’s role as a global city of cultural influence.


Dublin City Cultural Audit & Map

The city is building a cultural map that brings together, in a single place, all existing cultural information available in the city of Dublin. It has two purposes:

  1. To help officials/communities make decisions about the future
  2. To give residents cultural choices by providing them the opportunity to share stories of their heritage.

The lead agency for the project is the Dublin City Council. Financial continuity has been assured with a designated budget line within the council budget for the culture company.

Impact on the local government

  • Dublin is the only local authority in Ireland with a designated entity to create and support community driven cultural projects.
  • Citizen-led consultation and co-creation gaining recognition within the Council as an effective mechanism to get local ownership and empowerment.
  • Experimentation in a safe environment through interdepartmental connections.
  • Facilitation of  partnerships between organisations and citizens with Dublin City Council, forging relationships outside the local authority and building trust.


Impact on culture and on local cultural actors

  • Citizen consultation is the foundation on which Dublin’s Culture Connects and now Dublin City Council Culture Company is formed, and engagement is a continuous process throughout.
  • By its additionality to more traditional workflows in National Cultural Institutions, cultural venues and municipal sections, experimentation is encouraged. Many of our projects turn out to be pilot mechanisms for projects that can have a longer-term incarnation or impact.
  • Dublin’s Culture Connects was created in advance of the national policy ‘Creative Ireland’, the Irish Government’s cultural strategy launched in 2016 included an aim to promote access to a cultural life for all citizens.

Impact on the territory and population

  • Participant feedback has consistently spoken of an increased sense of place, a transformative relationship to their local environment and an energy to continue this momentum into other aspects of daily life.
  • New community groups, organisations and individuals are being sought continuously to our programmes through positive ‘word-of-mouth’, increased local and national press and cultural curiosity.



Dublin City Council Culture Company has put in place all the appropriate assessment and evidence gathering mechanisms to evaluate the programme, including the measurement of participation, geographic reach and project outputs; the capture of gender, age, community, social and civil data; the assessment of participant, artist, audience and partner organisation experiences and the extraction of action learnings to incorporate into ongoing projects in real time, allowing to continually realign approaches

Dublin is the capital of Ireland, and accounts for 39% of the national urban population: 553,165 within the Council’s remit. The Greater Dublin area comprises an overall population of 1.35M, 15% of which are immigrants. Since the 1990s, it has undergone population growth, both in number and in ethnic diversity, faced economic challenges, and has modernised.

A decade-long economic downturn, following 15 years of growth, created particular challenges for the city. Today, still 43% of households are at risk of poverty and 7% within the poverty rate. Dublin has seen much improved transport links over the last decade, but it remains a city of villages, where trans-local mobility is mainly defined by employment, education or health services.

Sense of place and the project subject is the common thread which binds the experiences together. No cultural hierarchy is imposed, creative ideas develop only because they have relevance to the citizens and communities who participate.

Stories, knowledge and personal passions inspire innovative ways of how communities interact culturally with their local environment. The integrated approach brings communities, artists, cultural stakeholders and Dublin City Council together.

A collaboration with the Department of Geography in the National University of Ireland, Maynooth is planned for this next stage of evaluation to set the methodology and indicators. We want to improve our impact research approach and learn from the experiences of European city peers in this regard. The learnings from the range and scope of the experiences gathered need to be assessed by the academic and international cultural community through Agenda 21 for Culture and UCLG. We believe the findings would demonstrate the tangible and intangible transformative nature of culture and its intrinsic value within the sustainable development of cities.

Dublin City Council Culture Company:

Original case study from the Committee on Culture of United Cities and Local Governments:

On the Map

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Want to know more about this project?

Laura Keogh
Dublin, Ireland

Laura Keogh

Individual | Head of Engagement

UCLG Committee on Culture
Barcelona (ciudad), Spain

UCLG Committee on Culture


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