Kristen Bell pays homage to what was a staple of Dublin nightlife, Hangar.
Unbeknownst to many, Dublin lost yet another cultural Mecca this summer to the ongoing attempt to turn our city into a heavily stereotyped and commercialized facade, fit for a never-ending conveyor belt of tourists that systematically come and go at their leisure. Hangar, a modest nightclub with a cult-like patronage, tucked comfortably into St. Andrews Lane in the center of the city, was the heartbeat of Irish session culture since its 2014 opening, providing a space for world-renowned DJs and local favourites to perform to flocks of electronic music disciples.
The exception to the exclusionary aura that Dublin nightlife has recently embodied, Hangar served as a city-wide melting pot, proving that a blissful and inexpensive night out was achievable with nothing but techno and a few cans. Hangar was a place where anything went – you were embraced into a warm hug by the place and its patrons whether you were wearing space goggles and tracksuit pants or a pink wig, a cape, and chunky high heels.
Skyrocketing rent prices and prohibitive “key costs”, a sometimes five-figure sum of money required just to grab the keys of your new space, have trickled down into the minutia of nightlife, raising prices of pints and cover charges astronomically, as detailed by Una Mullally and Catherine Cleary’s investigative research into the curiosities and misfortunes of Dublin nightlife. This in conjunction with a growing demand to please tourists more than locals and maintain “cultural purity,” or a completely idealized and exclusionary version of Irish culture, ultimately led to Hangar’s untimely demise.
The closure and demolition of this sacred space for commodification, a 115-room “pod-like” hotel is taking Hangar’s place, has opened the door to difficult conversations regarding the intersection between the booming hospitality industry in Ireland and maintaining and preserving Irish culture.
If I were to poll a hundred people on their perception of Dublin nightlife at the pickup location for a hop-on hop-off tour bus, I estimate with near certainty that an overwhelming majority of tourists would detail Dublin as a green cobblestone dreamland where Guinness flows as freely as the Liffey, in tiny pubs filled with old men in tweed caps.
And they’re not wrong. It can be that, and there will always be room for that. But Dublin nightlife has evolved to include the gaff-grown session counterculture that has its origins in a rebellion against €10 cover charges, overpriced pints, and shite Top 40 music blaring from the speakers of any Harcourt Street club until sunrise.
The session is not new, but is only just creeping its way into mainstream and popular culture through music, film, and social media. Dublin-based rappers Eskimo Supreme and Caspar Walsh of the duo Versatile detail the antics of the session in their brilliantly hilarious yet oddly relatable raps that allow the curious to peer their heads into the door of the session culture without committing to the lifestyle. Similarly, Emmett Kirwan’s 2015 spoken word poetry play-turned film, Dublin Oldschool, paints a vivid visual picture of this not-so-secret realm that exists within our city. While the popular meme page with nearly 600,000 likes, Humans of the Sesh, created a unified, online community for those to joke about Dutch Gold, lament the loss of 12.5 gram Amber Leaf packages, and provide important drug safety PSAs with humour and wit.
For those humans of the session accustomed to drinking Tesco cans by the canal and abusing their two-week free gaff, Hangar gave them a home that was void of time and immune from the elements. They didn’t have to wait for their gaff to be free or the sun to shine, mind-altering music perpetually blared through the speakers, drinks were shockingly affordable, and everybody was invited to join.
The sale and demolition of Hangar is a personification of the fervent attempts to hide this subculture integral to Dublin nightlife while highlighting the notion of an overarching and commodified Irish monoculture that exclusively exists as a masquerade. Why have we collectively refused to embrace this colourful, vibrant, and youthful energy harvested through the session? Why are we investing more in the ephemerality of tourism than the likes of those who have built a home in this dynamic city?
These questions are ours to answer, and the decisions ours to make. We can either embrace the energy of the session and include this subculture in the “official” Irish discourses that we spoon-feed to tourists, or we can let it wither out of sight. We can nurture and support this exponential creative growth, or we can chop it straight down at its peak. While the decision may seem clear, it will be a hard-fought battle against the monoculture-enforcing hospitality industry to reclaim our cosy niche within the ecosystem of Dublin’s nightlife.
Do not let Hangar die in vain.