How It’s New York: It’s part of New York’s docmentary festival DOC NYC and it includes musician Glen Hansard, sometime Brooklyn resident, and Ballymun native. The film was shown Nov. 7, only, at the IFC Center.
How It’s Irish: It centers on the Dublin area Ballymun, which has long been a shortcut reference for social blight within Ireland. The belief of music teacher Ron Cooney in the locals brings out another side and proves, again, the transformative power of music.
New blogger Orla O’Sullivan attends Ballymun Lullaby, shown at the DOC NYC Festival, about music teacher Ron Cooney’s work with children in this inner city area of Dublin. Most impressive to her were
….”The rapt faces of the children as they build to a triumphant crescendo”
Ballymun was a social experiment that failed, a 1960s effort to clean up the inner city by relocating inhabitants of what had been the tenements of Georgian Dublin to Ireland’s first high-rise development. There was no other. Starting around 2005, Ballymun’s “towers” were demolished, mostly in favor of houses. Yet, the area still retains many problems poverty brings.
Cooney gives voice to Ballymun. He has local school children write lyrics to reflect their experiences, engages a professional composer and the country’s foremost orchestra (The RTÉ Concert Orchestra), culminating in a live performance at a major Dublin venue The Helix.The rapt faces of the children as they build to a triumphant crescendo in that performance are the high note of director Frank Berry’s film Ballymun Lullaby, which documents Cooney’s work in Ballymun. They sing in swelling harmony: “As my mother says/ the world is your oyster/ 1,2,3,4/ now go!”
As Berry himself said in a Q&A after the screening, his former attitude toward Ballymun, “was the one we’re trying now to address”. He grew up fairly nearby and thought, he said: “Ballymun? It’s a place you don’t go into.” In fact, Berry says, Ballymun is “incredible” in that it retains such a rare sense of community “it’s kind of relaxing.”
The movie goes on general release in Ireland on Dec. 16, following an arthouse screening last December. It’s hoped that the film will amplify the Ballymun Lullaby.
As teacher Cooney remarked in the documentary, “We sold a few copies in Ballymun, but I still feel the world has not discovered us.”
Certainly, several audience members asked the director had he copies of the Ballymun Lullaby CD for sale (no, but they are on iTunes and, soon to be on Amazon; a few MP3s are there already).
Tara O’Brien, one of the successes highlighted in the film, we leave as a 15-year old intent on becoming a music teacher and being a community catalyst, like Cooney. (The program he was in, begun in the ’nineties in Ballymun, has now spread to 12 other school districts.)
A better known success story is that of Glen Hansard, 2007 Oscar winner for music, who left school at 13 to sing on the streets. In an interview, he tells Berry:
“When I was a busker on Grafton St., I was a guy from Ballymun… At the Oscars, I represented Ireland and I felt like I owned the whole world.”