Tower Songs

Artist Name(s) Brian Fleming, George Higgs, Sean Millar, Ailbhe Murphy & Daragh O'Toole
Artwork title Tower Songs

Tower Songs is a long term city-wide arts project in Dublin, Ireland. The project seeks to make visible the collective memory and experience of a number of Dublin communities as they make the transition from tower block living, via major urban regeneration initiatives. Tower Songs was conceived as a response to the extent of development in Dublin where the social and architectural landscape of the city is being significantly transformed. The project works through voice sound and song to explore the various collective historical and personal narratives of place in these communities. Tower Songs collaborates with youth and community development organisations in Dublin to realise a series of community based performances across the city where the experience of regeneration resonates. 

The project is led by CityArts, an arts organisation with a long history of developing work in community contexts in the city. Tower Songs has a dedicated artist team who collaborate with a number of youth and community development organisations and residents of tower block estates in different parts of the city. Working closely with the Rialto Youth Project and Fatima Groups United the project has realised performances by residents in Dolphin House and Fatima Mansions in Dublin's south inner city in 2005 and 2006 respectively. In 2007 and 2008, through the Ballymun Partnership, Tower Songs worked with a group of older residents in Ballymun on the north side of the city. The project recently worked with Ron Cooney and the Ballymun Wind Orchestra towards a large scale performance by over a hundred young people from Ballymun at The Helix in February 2009.


Several public performances took place including, Goodbye to Fatima in Fatima Mansions, June 2006 and A New Day, The Helix, Ballymun, February 2009. Various publications and DVDs were produced, including documentary films by Fergus Tighe, Aoibheann O'Sullivan and Enda O'Brien.

For more infomration see Aoibheann O'Sullivan's website


Brian Fleming plays percussion from around the world, specialising in the traditional Irish percussion instruments the bodhran and bones and the West African djembe. He has recorded on some thirty albums, produced three, played on several soundtracks for film and TV and has worked extensively in theatre in Ireland as musical director and musician, including with The Abbey Theatre, Barabbas, Els Comediens and with Donal O Kelly. He is a graduate of UCD (BA, Psychology) and NUIG (HDip Arts Policy and Practice) and works as a freelance director, programmer, teacher, performer and recording musician.

He has directed musical and theatrical spectacles for several major civic events, including: The Parable of the Plums in 2004 (170 performers) as part of Rejoyce; Oiche (100 performers) at the opening night spectacle of St Patrick's Festival in Dublin 2006 and City Song Lines involving 300 performers in The Helix in 2009. He is credited in the Guinness Book of World Records 2001 as one of the designers of the Millennium Drum, the world's largest drum, built for the Millennium Drum Carnival, which he directed and which played at every major festival in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and Korea.

Fleming is leader of the Afro Irish music group De jimbe, with whom he has played at festivals in Cuba, Gambia, Senegal, France, Bangladesh, Expo 2000 in Hanover and at the World Drum Festival, Seoul (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004) and at the Opening Ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2002 in Korea. He is also a Project Leader of Tower Songs a citywide music project run by CityArts, which works with communities affected by urban regeneration projects.

George Higgs (b. 1968) is a composer, writer and director for theatre and cinema. His work has been performed across Ireland, in Russia, and in Carnegie Hall in the United States. He has received numerous awards including multiple Arts Council Grants and the Director's Prize from the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin. He holds a Masters degree in music technology from Trinity College Dublin and is represented by the Contemporary Music Centre of Ireland.

In 2005 Higgs worked with the CityArts' Tower Songs Project as a composer, recording audio samples on site in order to create compositions and performances. In a 2006 performance, only days before the demolition of the last blocks of the old Fatima Mansions, he contributed the Fatimaphone, a hammer dulcimer he fashioned to model the flat complexes. With built-in electronics and connected to 4 speakers made out of steel rubbish bins this was hoisted on pulleys to the top balconies of the flats as the audience moved about the courtyard.

Over the years George has written some three hundred songs, several straight plays (In Case, Dog is Dead), performed as a musician for numerous bands in Dublin and San Francisco. He plays banjo, guitar, the singing hoses and works periodically as a Choir Director.

A full description of all his major works can be found on his website 

Sean Millar is a composer/ songwriter and performer who on occasion elects to work "in context". The exchange between solo and group and participatory work, the shift between studio and performance, and between individual writing and group facilitation, fuels his integrated artistic development, sustaining a critically lauded musical career over two decades.

Working as Doctor Millar, his 1995 Album The Bitter Lie led to a Hot Press Heineken Artist of the Year nomination alongside Van Morrison, Gavin Friday and Paul Brady.

Millar has recorded and released two further solo albums since then, each one increasing his critical reputation. Last year, after receiving Arts Council funding, he created the 'silverstar' song cycle. For the participants, older gay men, many of who had never performed on stage before, it was an experience loaded with learning and personal growth. It was recently described by Irish Times critics as one of the musical highlights of 2008.

Jack L, Camille O'Sullivan, Nick Kelly and Tom Dunne have covered his songs, while those written with inner city projects such as CityArts' Tower Songs have an equally extraordinary ongoing life. Millar has toured in Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Norway and Denmark and in the United States and Canada.

Ailbhe Murphy is a visual artist living and working in Dublin. Her practice has been based primarily within the community development sector in Dublin and past collaborative projects include Unspoken Truths (1991-1996) Once is Too Much (1997-1998) and Manifesto (2000). In 2003 she initiated Tower Songs which she developed with CityArts until 2006. In 2007 she co-founded Vagabond Reviews which is a platform for arts practice and critical inquiry. A PhD student with Interface at the University of Ulster Belfast, Ailbhe's research interests focus on the relation between collaborative art practice and regeneration processes in the city.

Daragh O'Toole has been a songwriter, composer, performer, producer and arranger for over 15 years. With a broad interest in musical styles and possibilities he has released a number of albums of original songs and instrumental pieces that combine orchestra with a modern band. He has toured this music throughout the world. As an arranger and musician he has worked with artists such as U2, Paddy Casey and Jack L. A New Day is his first commissioned work for young people.

Commission Type Other
Commissioner Name CityArts
Commissioning process Curated as part of CityArts' Community Programming strand
Partners Fatima Groups United  Rialto Youth Project  Ballymun Partnership
Artform Film,Music,Visual Arts
Art Practice Arts Participation
Funded By The Arts Council,Dublin City Council,Other
Budget Range 10000 - 30000 euro
Location Various locations in Dublin City 
County Dublin
Content contributor(s) Jane Speller
Relationship to project Jane Speller is responsible for visual arts programming at CityArts and meets regularly with the Tower Songs Project Leader as part of the CityArts Programming Sub Group.



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Nazareth Housing Association provides independent living houses for individuals and couples who are 65 and over and on the Sligo County Council housing list.  Nazareth Village is comprised of 48 houses in a garden setting.  The Village was financed as a public-private partnership between Nazareth Housing Association and Sligo County Council with funding from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.  

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