What's the Story? Collective

Artist Name(s) Michael Byrne, Graham Dunphy, Jamie Hendrick, Garrett Kenny, Vanessa Kenny, Nichola Mooney, Jonathan Myers, Gillian O'Connor, Fiona Whelan & Nicola Whelan
Artwork title What's the Story? Collective

What's the Story? Collective emerged from a set of existing relationships between artist Fiona Whelan and staff and young people of Rialto Youth Project who have been working in collaboration since 2004.

The artist in partnership with the staff at the youth project, carried out a research project in 2007 which involved collecting personal stories from over one hundred local young people. These stories identified a massive need to further investigate and respond to issues of power amongst young people in the area. An invitation was put to all young adults and youth workers to become part of a new collective with the artist to carry this project forward. The interdisciplinary group called What’s the Story? Collective made up of 10 individuals was established in early 2008.

What's the Story? Collective have built a critical practice over time that is committed to interrogating power relationships. They have established a set of horizontal working relationships that push the boundaries of collaborative practice between young people, artists and organizations. Their practice is also built on the sharing of personal stories and they are committed to interrogating and creatively responding to the common threads identified in these accounts. The resulting work is multifaceted and multi vocal and aims to opens dialogue and invite response.

The collective have produced multiple projects including:
Anonymous; Reading, Narrative and Memory,
A participatory reading event
St. Andrew's Community Centre, Rialto, Dublin November 2008
Anonymous was the first public engagement from What's the Story? Collective. It took the form of an intimate reading event with an invited audience of 60 people who participated in reading and responding to a selection of the gathered stories. Seated in a triangular format were 20 young people from Rialto, 20 Youth and Community Workers and Sociologists and 20 individuals from the Art Sector who all participated in a choreographed journey of individual and group readings.

12 Anonymous Stories

A 30 minute film
May 2009
12 Anonymous Stories is a short film made in Jan 2009 as a follow up to the live reading event. The film involves the retelling of a selection of personal stories by actors and has been screened in numerous locations.

The Day in Question

A participatory reading event
Irish Museum of Modern Art
July 2009
The Day in Question was the second participatory reading event developed in response to the overwhelming number of stories that dealt with young people's sense of powerlessness with the Gardai. The event brought together 26 uniformed Gardai, the collective and a group of witnesses seated in a triangle and involved members of the Gardai reading aloud the young people's stories.

Section 8

Mobile space
(ongoing 2009-2010)
Section 8 is a versatile mobile space which takes the form of a converted van. It acts as a site for film screening, conversation and exchange. In June 2009
Section 8 was launched screening 12 Anonymous Stories outside the University of Ulster, Belfast & at Victoria Parade, New Lodge, Belfast. In July, Section 8 was positioned at 126 Galway and also hosted a story exchange and discussion at West Side Youth Project, Galway. In November '09, What's the Story? Collective were invited to participate in the NEU/NOW festival where they positioned the Section 8 van at The Titanic - Design Innovations Centre of Vilnius Academy of Arts to screen their new film Eight Dublin Lithuanian Stories and host critical conversations and workshop.

Eight Dublin Lithuanian Stories

A 30 minute film
October 2009
Eight Dublin Lithuanian Stories is a film based on the personal experiences of Dublin-based Lithuanian young people, re enacted by their Irish peers. The film has been screened to audiences in Dublin and Lithuania.

Policing Dialogues

A six-week residency/exhibition at The LAB, Dublin
Sep/Oct 2010
Policing Dialogues was a six-week residency at The LAB by What’s the Story? Collective. It included a public exhibition of film and installation based on young people’s experiences of power and policing in Dublin South Central District as well as an extensive programme of workshops, dialogues and meetings. This creative and learning residency was aimed at all audiences but particularly at critical thinkers, policy makers, young people and those who work with them. An Garda Síochana also participated in the programme and crucially, the learning from this process will directly inform the content of new local training for Gardai, aimed at more constructive interactions with young people.


Website for What's the Story? Collective: www.section8.ie includes PDFs of all printed media below:

Tonight with Vincent Browne, TV3, 28 September 2010

Broadcaster Vincent Browne dedicates an entire show to the Policing Dialogues exhibition.

Platform Ireland, Oct 2010
A five-minute web documentary examining the Policing Dialogues exhibition including interviews with members of the collective.

Today with Pat Kenny, RTE Radio 1, 22 September 2010
Researcher Paddy O'Gorman reports on the Policing Dialogues exhibition at The LAB.

Culture Shock, News Talk radio, September 2010
Fionn Davenport interviews Fiona Whelan, Nichola Mooney and Michael Byrne about the Policing Dialogues exhibition.

The Irish Independent, 24 September 2010
The Independent recommend the Policing Dialogues exhibition as part of their ‘critics choice’ section.

The Irish Examiner, 16 September 2010
Juno McEnroe reports on the Policing Dialogues exhibition at The LAB

The Rialto Network News, Autumn 2010
The Rialto Network News reports on the Policing Dialogues exhibition in The LAB.

The Irish Times, 7 December 2009
Kitty Holland reports on The Day in Question reading event with Gardai at IMMA:

Visual Artists New Sheet, Mar/April 2009:
Niall de Buitlear reports on the What’s the Story? Collective public talk in The LAB

Y Now, winter 2009
Micka Byrne and Nichola Whelan describe their experience of the collective’s project involving young people from Lithuania.

Practice, 2009
Fiona Whelan discusses her practice as the featured artist on www.practice.ie:
This interview was summarised for the first issue of Practice, Issue 1, Volume 1 in an article titled Fiona Whelan: Understanding Difference

The Rialto Network News, 2009
The Rialto Network News reports on What’s the Story? Collective’s 2009 trip to Lithuania to participate in the NEU/NOW festival.

The Policing Dialogues Review, March 2011
What’s the Story? Collective will soon launch their new 24 page newspaper written in response to the Policing Dialogues residency at The LAB

Power and the People, YNow, Winter 2010
Fiona Whelan charts the journey of What’s the Story? Collective up until their Policing Dialogues residency in The LAB

IN2, 2010
Artist Fiona Whelan and Jim Lawlor, Manager of Rialto Youth Project discuss their experience of working together over seven year in A Partnership Preamble in IN2

Public Talks:
The Imperfect Collaboration, 6 December 2007, UU, Belfast
Public talk by Fiona Whelan, Gillian O' Connor, Jamie Hendrick and Jim Lawlor exploring the complexities of collaboration from 4 different perspectives, part of a seminar called Towards a better Future; Dialogue, Negotiation, Collaboration and Participation held at Interface in the University of Ulster.

14 January 2009, The Lab, Dublin
14 months later, Fiona Whelan, Gillian O'Connor, Jamie Hendrick and Jim Lawlor gave their second public talk specifically exploring the collaborative relationships during the development stage of What's the Story? and the realisation of research into the form of a live event.

6 November 2009, Whitechapel gallery, London
Fiona Whelan gave a public talk on her practice and the work of What’s the Story? Collective as part of the seminar Future Perfect: Art, Gallery Education and Regeneration, run by Engage.

23 April 2009, IMMA, Dublin
Fiona Whelan gave a public talk on her practice and the work of What’s the Story? Collective as part of Grundtvig European Partnership Project which the museum are involved with.

13 March 2010, Belfast Exposed, Belfast
Fiona Whelan gave a public talk on her practice and current work of What's the Story? Collective as part of Exchange Mechanism event in Belfast Exposed.

22 /23 September 2010, Knowle West Media Centre, Bristol
Jamie Hendrick and Fiona Whelan facilitate two roundtable discussions titled ‘What’s at stake in the current political climate for socially engaged practice and young people?’ and ‘Partnerships, What’s at stake and at what point is the artist compromised?’ as part of a two-day conference Demanding Conversations.

19 October 2010, The LAB, Dublin
What’s the Story? Collective in conversation with Vagabond Reviews. A public conversation that critically examined the work and practice of the collective with Ailbhe Murphy and Ciaran Smyth. 


Since their establishment, the work of What's the Story? Collective has been located at IMMA, 126, University of Ulster , NCAD gallery and The LAB as well as a variety of community and public sites and has engaged a broad range of audiences. In November 2009 their work was internationally recognized and they were invited to participate in the NEU/NOW festival in Vilnius, part of the European Capital of Culture celebrations.

Fiona Whelan
Central to the Collective is artist Fiona Whelan whose practice is motivated by relationships of difference across sector, culture and background. A committed practitioner in the field of socially engaged art practice, Fiona has positioned her practice over time in Rialto. In 2009 Fiona completed an MA Art in Public at Interface in the University of Ulster and continues to teach on the H-Dip in Community Arts Education at NCAD.

Vanessa Kenny
Vanessa Kenny first engaged with Rialto Youth Project in 2004 at the age of 14 through a local visual art group, and has since participated in many public art projects including a mural in Philadelphia. At the same time, Vanessa also began junior leadership training and is now working in a voluntary capacity with RYP. She has a keen interest in music and is part of a group called The Rialto Jammers. Vanessa is motivated by a sense of justice and actively participates in The Hemispheres Project (European youth action-training) and What's the Story? Collective.

Nicola Whelan
Nicola Whelan has engaged with RYP since she was 9. Since then she has had a continuous engagement in art projects beginning with the Mapping project at IMMA in 1998, then a local visual art group engaging in many public works, followed by What's the Story? Collective. Nicola believes in the power of art to bring about change.

Jamie Hendrick
Jamie Hendrick has been involved in RYP since he was 8 and has engaged in visual arts groups ever since, including Mapping, Dolphin Art Group and most recently What's the Story? He has engaged in many public talks and written articles about the significance of art in his life. In 2008 he started volunteering with RYP and is also involved in the Hemispheres Project (European Youth Action training).

Garrett Kenny
Garrett Kenny starting volunteering in RYP in 2008 after which he joined What's the Story? Collective. Prior to that Garrett was a site manager and metal fabricator. He has a keen interest in drawing and making. Garrett wishes to become a Youth Worker and has recently began his Degree at NUI Maynooth.

Michael Byrne
Michael Byrne has been part of RYP since he was 13. All that time he has been involved in art projects including a Land Art Project in Fatima, public murals at the Fatima Luas stop and in Philadelphia and a number of plays. Since 2005 he has been volunteering in RYP and intends to go to NUI Maynooth this year to study Youth and Community Work. In addition to volunteering, he still participates in many arts based projects including What's the Story?

Graham Dunphy
Graham Dunphy has been engaged with RYP for many years. His primary interest is in drama and he has acted in many plays. He has been in What's the Story? Collective since its establishment in 2007 and is very interested in conversations around the issue of power.

Jonathan Myers
Jonathan Myers has been involved with RYP since he was 8. He had his first involvement in an art group through the Mapping project with IMMA and then through a local visual art group who engaged in sculpture and mural projects including a public mural in Philadelphia. He has had a 9 year engagement with visual arts in total. Jonathan's primary interest is in history and politics and the systems within Irish society. He is also interested in creative writing.

Nichola Mooney
Nichola Mooney completed her degree in Youth and Community Work in NUI Maynooth in 2003 after which she became a full time youth worker in RYP. Prior to this, Nichola was a drama teacher and still maintains a keen interest in drama and dance which are key to her work with young people in Rialto, In 2008 she engaged in training with Augusto Baol in Berlin. Nichola believes in the importance of collaboration in her work.

Gilliam O'Connor
Gillian O'Connor completed her degree in Youth and Community Work in NUI Maynooth in 2003 and took up a role as full time youth worker in RYP in 2004. In addition to being a committed youth worker, Gillian is interested in music and singing and was central to the establishment of the Rialto Jammers, a space for young people interested in music. She is always seeking new ways to push the boundaries of engagement with young people.

Commission Type The Arts Council
Commissioner Name N/A
Commissioning process Artist Led
Artform Visual Arts
Art Practice Arts Participation
Funded By The Arts Council,Other
Budget Range 35000 - 70000 euro
Location Based in Rialto, Dublin. The project has traveled within Dublin as well as to Galway, Belfast and Vilnius, Lithuania.
County Dublin
Website www.section8.ie/
Content contributor(s) Fiona Whelan
Relationship to project Artist, Member of What's the Story? Collective
Public engagement

10 individuals in the Collective (1 Artist, 2 youth workers, 4 volunteer youth leaders and 3 young adults)

Over 100 Dublin young people contributed stories

23 local young people participated in reading events/film

35 young people nationally engaged in project through workshops/events

5 young Lithuanians contributed stories to film

3 Lithuanian teachers engaged in the work

24 Artists/Art sector participated in reading events

4 sociologists participated in events and residency

20 youth & community workers participated in reading events/film/workshop

25 Gardai participated in reading event (22 officers, 2 Sergeants, 1 Chief Superintendant) and follow up dialogue during LAB residency

3 Senior Gardai and 2 Gardai participated in regular meetings to develop training

35 Masters students from 4 courses and 28 Undergraduate students participated in exchanges during LAB residency

Over 300 of the general public experienced the work

Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Policing Dialogues 2010:

Advisory team included Niall O’Baoill; Arts Manager Fatima Groups United, Jim Lawlor: Manager Rialto Youth Project, Annette Moloney: Curator and Ailbhe Murphy and Ciaran Smyth of Vagabond Reviews.

Public Communications Centre for Media and Communications work

Community Action Network for all facilitation

Sociologists Dr Aogan Mulcahy, Dr John Bissett, Dr Maurice Devin, and Artists Susanne Bosch and Dan Shipsides who acted as witnesses during the project.

Chief Superintendants John Twomey and Michael O’ Sullivan and Sergeant Colm Russell of An Garda Siochana

Designers James Ryan and Barry Archer for design and build of triangular seating

Declan O’ Brien for website www.section8.ie

Other 2007-09:

Jay Koh (Artist) who mentored Fiona Whelan from 2007-2009 as part of Common Ground mentoring programme.

Enda O’ Brien (Film maker) who filmed and edited film material relating to the project.

James Ryan (Designer) of Kleerex Retail Services Group who sponsored the design and fit out of Section 8 van.

What’s the Story? is a multi-layered project and benefits from a complex network of support from local community organizations, family, youth workers and artists.



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