There’s not too many promoters out there who can get 1000 people to turn up with 36 hours notice, or less, but Happenings have built a reputation over the last 5 years of doing just that.
Understanding that running outdoor events in Ireland is a mad man’s game, they knew they could work with the spontaneity and immediacy of social media to get people together quick, even turning it into part of the fun.
With a number of successful events under their belts, the rapidly building and loyal audience would become integral parts of the process, helping to spread the word when events were cancelled or enthusiastically telling their networks about events when the sun made an unexpected appearance.
It all began with small outdoor cinema pop ups in a little residential square near the grand canal and has grown to include all sorts of music, food, mindfulness & family events in parks and public spaces in Dublin and further afield in Limerick and Cork.
We caught up with founder Peter O’Brien in late September in Merrion Square, at one of their last outdoor events of the year, to ask him how Happenings came about and see for ourselves how it's run.
(Thanks to Jevan Nealan for the additional photos)
The Locals (TL): Why Happenings? How did it come about, what lead up to it?
Peter O’Brien (POB): It wasn’t planned, it was all by chance. I was living on Dartmouth Square and through a strange twist of fate got control of the square after years of dispute over its ownership. I used it for open air cinema, music, yoga, theatre and all sorts.
These were things that I thought made sense for the use of public space and it all grew from there.
The short notice thing came out of the head wreck of long term planning with our very changeable weather and the realization that we all plan short term these days because of social media and rapid communications tech development.
Founder Peter O'Brien
TL: When Did you first feel you we’re really on to something?
POB: I requested to work with Fitzwilliam Square in the summer of 2013 with the pop up model of short term notice, and with 36 hours notice, through social channels, we were getting great numbers regularily attending. I think I knew we had ‘something’ then!
Even this year, despite awful weather, e’ve had massive crowds attending yoga classes each week and good turn outs all round.
Simon getting the screen ready 2 hours before doors open
TL: Who is Happenings exactly?
POB: Samuel Bishop and myself are fully employed by Happenings, then there are many other regulars at events like Simon Cullen, Mike Soro and loads of others. Meridian look after our security, Irish Village Markets, Dublin City Council and all the other land authorities we work with.
Food vendors at Happenings
TL: Describe a typical Happenings event? How does it all come together?
POB: Open Air Cinema is the most regular event. We arrive 3 hours before. The food vendors setup shop and and we set up our screen, p.a. and projection system with all our lovely decor and lights for when the sun goes down and for when the movie ends.
We have music playing when people arrive and more and more we are providing various entertainment before the movie.
People get food from the stalls, chill out and wait for the movie to begin. At the end there is a big cheer and we ask all to leave no trace, to take their rubbish away with them. This works great as a collective responsibility action, creating a really positive environment and everybody goes home delighted.
We have audiences ranging from 300 to 1500 usually, all depending on weather and film titles.
Unloading the sound system
TL: What are the biggest challenges you face with your events?
POB: Weather, people sticking to the rules, keeping noise levels acceptable!
Volunteers checking tickets at the gate
TL: What is in store for the future of Happenings?
POB: Intergalactic domination, ahhhhh no, sure leave that to Hollywood.
More of the same and adding in more meaning in the areas of sustainability, mental health and generally societal health. I am a Dad and want to see a better world for my son, not just a better world but a world, an inhabitable planet, it’s a big ask, but hey, let's go big!
Getting comfy before the lights go down
TL: What is your dream for Happenings?
POB: A platform that can be used by others to host events in cities and communities around Ireland and who knows around the world. A model for working with local authorities to bring meaningful gatherings into everyday life everywhere. Essentially to bring back the commons, public space being used for the public to decide their destiny's - together.
TL: What are 3 things to think about when doing outdoor event
POB: Weather, keeping the relationships good between the various land authorities and Happenings, and keeping noise levels acceptable for local residents!