- 01 Dec 23
Since it was launched in 2016, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, has been acclaimed as one of Europe’s very best. And that’s because it is...
When a museum snaffles the ‘Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction’ gong at the prestigious World Travel Awards in 2019, 2020, and again in 2021, it has to be regarded as a spectacular Lionel Messi-style success. The good news is that we’re talking here about an Irish museum, located close to the heart of the capital city, Dublin.
The beauty of the EPIC experience is that, rather than relying on artefacts and explanatory text to attract visitors, the museum uses modern technology in a really creative and immersive way to bring the story of Irish emigration to life.
The underlying philosophy at EPIC is that visitors want not only to read history but to feel it. And that vital experiential leap is achieved by drawing visitors into the lived reality of the Irish emigrant experience – by evoking the trials and the tribulations as well as the heart and the soul of the multiple millions of Irish people who left these shores, over the past 1,500 years and more.
EPIC holds a unique position among Dublin’s heritage spaces. The Irish diaspora amounts to more than 70 million people – more than ten times the population of the island itself. Yet, until the foundation of EPIC in 2016, there was no museum or attraction which gathered information on the exploits and achievements of Irish people across the world or discussed the social, political and cultural effect emigration has had, whether in Ireland or abroad.
Telling the story of Irish people and their impact on world history through this hugely revealing lens make EPIC a must-see for Irish people and visitors to this country alike...
INSIDE THE MUSEUM
Upon arrival, visitors are given an EPIC passport to be stamped along each step of the museum journey, as they travel down the historic vaults in the beautifully restored Custom House Quay (CHQ) building.
Once a Tobacco Store, CHQ is at the entry-point to Dublin’s revitalised Docklands area. The site was the departure point for many emigrating to the United States and elsewhere during the Great Famine.
However while the building enjoys a powerful sense of history, EPIC has a truly modern feel. Inside the CHQ building you’ll find a wide range of wonderful places to eat, making EPIC a great spot to while away an afternoon.
The exhibition first looks at how Irish people have travelled away from this island, using everything from curraghs to Boeing 737s. There’s no shortage of letters, oral histories and pictures to reflect the far-reaching legends created by Irish people. As you explore these historic vaults you realise that there’s a facet of Irish emigration to engage everyone, whether it’s politics, sport, science, music, movies, literature – or crime!
There are temporary exhibitions, which bring visitors flocking back for a second or third visit. As an example, ‘Entangled Islands, Ireland and the Caribbean’ offers a new and invaluable insight into some of the forgotten stories of the Irish and the Caribbean – including the Irish involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, whether as antagonists who benefitted from the trafficking of enslaved people and also as abolitionists. The story of Montserrat is told as ‘The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean’ where you’re as likely to meet an O’Sullivan as anywhere in West Cork. And the histories of remarkable Black Irish people are discussed, including John Archer, born in 1863 to a Barbadian ship steward and an Irish Catholic woman. In 1913, Archer became the Mayor of Battersea, the first Black Mayor of any London borough.
There is an extensive music and dance section, covering artists of every genre and instrument, from Chief O’Neill of Chicago, who preserved hundreds of Irish tunes by transcribing them into sheet music for the first time, to Rihanna – who has Irish roots through her father’s side of the family. Some of the biggest stars of the last hundred years grace the screens including, John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles, sensational vocalist Mariah Carey and ginormously successful pop star Ed Sheeran are just a few of the legendary musicians who can claim Irish heritage.
Meanwhile, you can see a screening of the first ever performance of Riverdance, followed by a how-to dance tutorial afterwards. Both the young and the young at heart can try to follow the literal footsteps of Michael Flatley as a helpful step by step guide has been painted onto the floor of the gallery.
Overall, EPIC is a brilliant, unique account of the Irish emigrant experience. Only a ten-minute walk from the city centre, and a few feet from the Luas Red line’s George’s Dock stop, we reckon that a day out at EPIC should be on everyone’s bucket list – tourists and locals alike.
EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, located inside the CHQ Building on Custom House Quay, is open seven days a week from 10am to 6.45pm. (last entry 5pm)
THEY GAVE THE WALLS A TALKING: The extraordinary story of The Pogues and Shane MacGowan
The Pogues are among the greatest Irish bands of all time. Formed in London in 1982, they brought a raw, punk spirit to Irish folk music – and in the process attracted a whole new audience to the tradition.
The band’s critically acclaimed third album, If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1987), produced by Steve Lilywhite, and packed with original songs, was their biggest hit, going Top 10 in the UK, Sweden, Switzerland and New Zealand. It contains their best known song ‘Fairytale of New York’ – which became a global best-seller and has been widely hailed as the greatest Christmas song of all time.
The band’s main songwriter Shane MacGowan, is recognised as one of the finest, and most profoundly poetic, lyricists of the past 50 years. No one has charted the lives of those who have been failed by the system or choose to live outside it – migrant labourers, down-and-outs, psychedelic adventurers, revolutionary heroes, political prisoners, subversives, outsiders, rebels and addicts – with greater insight.
All of this will be captured in a special digital exhibition, curated by Hot Press magazine in collaboration with EPIC, titled They Gave The Walls A Talking: The extraordinary story of The Pogues and Shane MacGowan. The exhibition will be a powerful celebration of the marvellously wild, fiercely fiery, sometimes intoxicated and, in the end, wonderfully inspiring contribution The Pogues have made to music in Ireland and across the world. They gave the walls a talking – and we listened, in awe.
When we started into the project three months ago, we anticipated that the great Irish song-poet would enjoy sharing in the warmth and appreciation expressed by one and all for him, his band-mates and his work. Sadly Shane MacGowan died on November 30, just before the launch of the exhibition.
They Gave The Walls A Talking: The extraordinary story Of The Pogues And Shane MacGowan will run from the beginning of December to the end of January. Access to exhibition is included in all general admission tickets.
For tickets: epicchq.com