It’s difficult not to pass a decorated traffic light pole in Dublin city centre today. While the City Council seem to be working over-time to remove stickers from just about everything in Dublin, Donal Fallon fills us in on how each of the four big football clubs in the city have done their bit to ensure visitors are aware of their presence.
The merging of football and street art is nothing new. In November of 2010 the Evening Times, Scotland’s top selling evening paper (The Evenin Hedild if you need comparison) attacked what it labelled the ‘Style Mile Vandals’ who had “blitzed” Buchanan Street, one of the main shopping streets in Glasgow, with stickers declaring their support for Glasgow Celtic. The “bigots and extremists” had supposedly cost the council thousands of pounds. A section of the Celtic support base adopted the title Style Mile Vandals for themselves, and have since continued to re-decorate the streets of Glasgow. On a train ride into Glasgow city centre, their tags are impossible to miss.
In Dublin, some of the stickering is territorial. Walking down Emmet Road in Inchicore for example, you’re in no doubt that you’re in the territory of Saint Patrick’s Athletic supporters. Across the river, Phibsborough is covered (or ‘blitzed’, to borrow a turn of phrase from the Evening Times) with stickers proclaiming support for Bohemians. In the city centre it’s a battle for each lamppost, with some covered six or seven times over by the various Dublin clubs. It’s not just in the capital either that street art and football have met one another; a visitor to Sligo would notice that the walls and traffic lights of that town are clearly red and white.
One of the most interesting aspects of the League of Ireland street art in the capital was instigated by a group of Shamrock Rovers fans known as the ‘Boardwalk Bloc’. The group are a section of the SRFC Ultras, though not a breakaway, who formed in March of 2011 out of shared interests and indeed politics. Their contribution to the lampposts of the city has been unique, preferring homemade stickers to those of a printer. It’s relatively cheap to print a thousand stickers in Dublin today, but the efforts from the Boardwalk Bloc have stood out. As one of their members told me, these stickers give the group a distinctive creative signature.
Any visitor to Germany, and in particular Hamburg or Munich, can be taken aback by the level of football related street art in those cities, with fan groups like New Kids Sankt Pauli and Schickeria München leaving their marks all over their respective cities with paste-ups, stickers, tags and murals. DHL posting stickers are a medium of choice for these groups, available freely from post offices and offering a cheap alternative to mass produced stickers. “Some of our first efforts where on DHL stickers which we used to rob every day in huge quantities from the post office nearest our hotel in Sankt Pauli” I was told by the Boardwalk Bloc, and since their homemade stickers began appearing in Dublin, other fans groups have followed. The influence of such trips abroad has long been clear on the Irish ultras scene in general, with the culture very much a continental one in and of itself.
As confidence grows, more and more League of Ireland street art appears, for example a recent effort from the Shed End Invincibles at Windmill Lane which saw a huge homage to the flare, a one time Friday night regular in the league and now sadly all too rare. The nature of street art, not least in that part of Dublin, is temporary. Yet such pieces are done for a love of both the art and the subject, and contribute to fan culture in a unique way.
Just below the surface there exists a brilliant fan culture in the domestic football league which celebrates creativity like that clear to be seen on the traffic lights and walls of Dublin city. Dublin has been proclaimed red and white, red and black and green and white by different sections of the League of Ireland faithful, and while all four Dublin sides may claim the city as theirs, the lampposts belong to them all.