In July 2019 I presented Placing Home - work-in-progress for a new exhibition at Galway International Arts Festival on the West Coast of Ireland. The festival has commissioned me to work with people who have experienced, or are living in Direct Provision in the city.
Direct Provision in Ireland provides accommodation for asylum seekers, often in old hotels, former hostels, or guest houses. In June 2019 there were over 7,000 men, women & children using Direct Provision services across Ireland. The system was established in 2000 to accommodate people temporarily - in theory for no more than six months - whilst their asylum claim was processed. However, the reality is that many have been trapped in the system for far longer - housed in cramped, shared rooms, with very little privacy, their daily lives subject to endless restrictions. Not knowing how long they will have to wait for the outcome of their asylum application adds to the stress of having virtually no autonomy and very limited financial means.
Eglinton Hotel in Salthill was once a popular seaside resort hotel, with an enviable view across Galway Bay towards the Clare Hills and the Aran Islands. In fine weather the promenade is busy with people heading to the beach, walking their dogs, jogging, cycling, or simply watching the world go by from one of the many seafront cafes or bars. Lonergan's Bar, a traditional Irish pub, is on the corner. Just a short walk up the road is the summer fairground, and a little further along the iconic Blackrock Diving Tower juts out from the rocks across the water.
Eglinton Hotel has been a Direct Provision centre since 2000, housing families from many different countries seeking asylum. There is a small sign on the main door saying that it is no longer open to the general public. The windows at the side of the building reveal details of daily life squashed into a small space; washing hanging up to dry, a kettle on the windowsill, a push-chair pressed up against the glass, and a child's drawing. The barred gate to the car park at the back of the hostel is almost always closed, bearing the sign 'No turning at this point'.
The images seen here were exhibited as part of the 2019 festival, alongside photographs I selected from other recent projects that resonate with the themes of 'home' and 'belonging'. The full exhibition was due to take place in the 2020 festival, but has been postponed to July 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.