shopify visitor statistics hello

SpiritStore Art Café


SpiritStore Art Cafe was initiated in 2009, Post Celtic Tiger Limerick. Under 'the crash' the city centre business area was hollowed out and plans for a large city centre commercial development had stalled. Sited at the corner plot and surrounded by the proposed new development was Limerick's oldest Georgian building, architecturally significant, it was originally built as the Lord Majors residence. In the city the building was best known to the locals as the Sarsfield Bar, a spirit store.

The corner building that housed the Sarsfield Bar was the only privately owned structure in a large Georgian block due to be demolished for redevelopment. It would remain the only original building on the site. A Limerick butcher, who's family, the Glynn's, had owned a butchers shop in that block for multiple generations, bought the building and planned to renovate and open his business there, but that plan had stalled along with the proposed shopping centre development.

At the time of purchase the doors of the Sarsfield Bar had been closed to the public for five years; however it held great, almost mythical status in the collective Limerick imagination. Sean Hickey, who had been the Bar's proprietor, made it extremely difficult to enter and get served if you weren't one of his regulars. While this was admired, it amused the public, being served became something of a sport, with people sharing stories of their attempts.

Opening the doors of Sarsfield Bar, as the SpiritStore Art Cafe, gave the local public joyful and free access to this space. The project was developed in response to the Georgian buildings embrace in contestation, the intention was to interrupt the logics of the site.

Located in Limerick's urban centre, the SpiritStore Art Café, saw a collaboration of artists and citizens , negotiate, occupy and community manage the empty public house, (the Sarsfield Bar, within the building) as a city centre social space during the Irish economic crash.

Over the three months that the public had access to the building, the SpiritStore project invited collective actions of organising, of experiencing and of materialisation where potential new forms of inhabiting the building and inhabiting the city emerged.

SpiritStore Art Cafe opened as a public social space daily, serving free tea and coffee with a daily programme of workshops, readings, performances, exhibitions, talks and installations. Under the title SpiritStore Art Cafe we provided structures to catalyze social exchange crossing public, professional and social spheres. Our preservation and attitude to the heritage of the space served to engage a broader Limerick audience. In this rupture in progress, we provided alternative spaces for audience interaction, for public gathering and autonomous, self determined engagement with the city.

The project employed an open curatorial practice, I curated a programme of participation as well as accommodating all requests for space on the programme, which included performances, public talks and meetings on subjects as diverse as Mathematics, Museology, Architecture, Graffiti, Perceptual Psychology, Archaeology, Poetry, Music Composition, New Music, Active Social Spaces, Slack Spaces, Skateboarding, Literature, Artists Collectives, Interaction Design, Choreography, Film Discourse, Script Writing, Games Design, Visual Art, Astronomy, History, Cinema and more.

The project legacy

This building is an understated historical pivot in urban Limerick, it has weathered tastes, trends, forgotten plans, aspirations and the ambitions of a city. It remains standing at one of the city's entry points. The space had been left to idle, in a liminal state. Being at the threshold is a dynamic concept often associated with struggle, hybridity, anarchy and creation. Art making in threshold places, where people and places exist in in-between states is full of potential for everyone involved.

Our creative and anarchic engagement with the site was a continuation of its unfolding story, we became part of the collective memory of the building, a layer in its potentiality.

The artwork’s “life” existed only for the duration of the "Art Cafe', but has been embedded in the legacy of the building, a building still in the suspended embrace of a programme of regeneration to this day.

At a local level a small but important element of our insertion into the buildings story was access; creating access for the public, not only entry across the threshold, but access to the site as a stage for public co-production, discussion, performativity, social gathering and exchange.

Left to Right; artist Aidan Kelleher, artist Orlagh Spain (Fond memories RIP), artist Eilish Tuite, artist Sarah Bulger and son, designer Patricia Stapleton, designer Alina O'Shaughnessy, artist Stephen Neary, artist Derrek O'Sullivan, Owner of the building, butcher, Frank Glynn, project leader / artist Marilyn Lennon, artist Barry Kennedy, artist Tony Hassett, artist Anna Donegan, artist Tadgh MacCullagh, artist Catherine O'Brien, artist Cian O Donoghue,
Not captured above; Chris Boland, Paul Tarpey, Carla Burns, Alan Crowley, Ciarda Tobin, Paul Dowling, David Morris, Matthew Quain, Neville Gawley, Sarah NiRiain & Joanne Walsh.


The SpiritStore Art Cafe closed its doors as planned after four months of public access and programming.

The SpiritStore Art Cafe became the SpiritStore Art Project, with a number of iterations, seen on other tabs on this site and at the SpiriStore website and blog, see links below.

extract from spiritstore art cafe blog

Carberry and Greenwood

Fixing sunset as the time that the SpiritStore closes lately seems to encourage the appearance of a late flamed Limerick sun spotlighting this corner of town and participants are now illuminated while engaging in a contemplative wind down viewing the days final event. Illustrating this on Saturday the performer Mark Carberry presented himself as a sun god in transit. As he stood in the middle of the floor surrounded by nearly 50 people his bronze vinyl leggings and burnished tunic absorbed the summers last rays almost encouraging him to anoint this temporary space for autumns arrival. Carberry was working tonight with the composer John Greenwood showcasing two collaborative performance pieces. Here they reconstructed personal fragments and observations distilled from rants, ranting and all sorts of mental exfoliation into a performance workshop using the SpiriStore as a platform. The result is delivered for the space through the combined medium of electro acoustic sound design and body movement. Lately, memories are being logged and reconstituted in the SpiritStore as both passers-by and past patrons drop in to share stories of the Sarsfield Bars past. This week we heard that the space was a hub for (quote) ‘working girls’ in the 1930's. This information - which if presented in the context of this evening - allows for another addition, one more possible twilight reimagining as the building silently offers past tales to the performer in its centre tonight. Carberry on the floor is now a figure of dull shined twists. We watch and follow his pointing finger. Our attention is drawn to the faded 30's era scraps of paper mummified by the walls plaster. He arches upwards as Greenwood triggers limbering audio shapes from a laptop. The deep green papered roof now appears church high as from the speakers an electronically treated voice talks abstractly of sonorous sex. Outlining this theme in movement the duo sought to present –as subject matter- the tension inherent in the aspects of presentation that occur when you sexually set out your stall. This act is of course not compliant on gender or age and it is a subject as a performer Carberry has creatively visited before. The words ‘Britney Spears’ is growled from Carberrys mask at one stage as he claws on the carpet towards what appears to be a pair of high heeled shoes deformed by white gaffa tape. (Note. One of the patron saints of music performance, Kate Bush once laid out a similar agenda in her song ‘Suspended in gaffa’) An imagined pattern occurs as we absorb the time and place. How much ranting occurred when the Women of the 30s occupied this space? What tone did they adopt?

How did they position themselves? Did they tailor their words and thoughts around these four walls also? Was their attire as confrontational as Carberrys tonight? (For purposes at the beginning, a green table cloth was fashioned and power shouldered as a cape to offset his gaffa taped head.) Greenwoods score was punctuated with silences filled by the cafes coffee machined hiss alternating with recognisable sampled urban noise treatments. These occasionally stood apart from the activity on the floor but never so much as to assume a detrimental identity compromising the piece. The sound of train on an overhead track stuttered from the speakers. Outside cars picked up in volume, their noise washing in as they began to ferry the weekend population into the city.

A bronzed Mark turns and stands facing the wall to finish. Before leaving both performers explained the nature of their collaboration and how feedback from displays like tonight are integral to the work in progress. The shorter first piece of the two tonight was showcased initially as a finished work on the ‘Rants’ theme but most felt that the improv of the second movement was a stronger interpretation particularly after Greenwoods explanation of how the mood boards the duo used visually shaped the piece. This work well worth following as a journey shaped through improv and focused through different Limerick spaces. Its particular success tonight in some small part due to the SpiritStore and the emotional static that circles its walls when the sun goes down.

Paul Tarpey.