It started with Malcolm Denby’s realisation that Ringsend Park needs a skatepark.
He drafted a text to his teacher to ask how to make it happen, mulling over the wording. Then, he sent it.
“She said that it was a great idea. The fact that she even said that, made us feel heard,” he said.
Word of the skatepark idea spread. “We were told: shoot for the moon, and land on the stars,” said Darryl Poole.
That’s when it went from a skatepark to whole park renovation, says Malcolm. “We don’t want this for just us, cus it’s not going to be just us here forever.”
On 12 April, Denby and Poole presented their ideas for Ringsend Park to the council’s South East Area Committee.
“One of the better presentations we’ve had, I have to say,” said Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne. “I’d say we probably all should be worried about our seats going forward.”
Said Daniel Céitinn, a Sinn Féin councillor: “You’re doing the college and the community proud.”
On Thursday, a circle of cobalt-blue-jumpered primary-school students were sitting in the grass around their teacher, close to the Cambridge Road entrance to Ringsend Park.
Denby, 17, points over at them. “They could be sitting around a fountain instead of on the grass. It would be nicer,” he says.
Ringsend Park doesn’t have a landmark that draws people to the area, he says. “We want something that people would know Ringsend by.”
“A centrepiece, that people would remember,” says Poole, 18, beside him. “It would be so stand-out.”
Ringsend Park is in the middle of everything, but it’s mostly just grass and pitches, says Poole.
Says Denby: “Over the summer, people brought their Spikeball kits to the park and played together.”
At the council committee meeting, Poole and Denby rattled off what else they’d like to see: a rock-climbing wall, volleyball nets, a mini-dog park, concrete ping-pong tables.
“And small things, because it’s the little things that really matter,” says Denby.
Benches with charging points for office staff who want to work outside, and away teams worried about low batteries.
They wanted bins back, they said, which had been stripped out one by one to try to stop people dumping household waste.
“We could find a way around that,” said Denby. “Maybe we could design a new one.”
Workout spaces, too. “It’s our cradle-to-the-grave approach,” says Poole. “We have an old-folks’ home right beside the school. If they wanted to go out and work out, we were thinking of getting a specific gym equipment area.”
Says Denby: “We want it for everyone in Ringsend.”
Michael Noonan, the council’s senior executive parks superintendent, said: “I certainly welcome the elements that they have presented.”
“A lot of the items listed are definitely things that we would consider. We would have to see how everything integrates together. And on top of that, you have the budget,” he said.
There has been a proposal to invite Denby and Poole to present their ideas for the park at a full council meeting, said Kevin Donoghue, a Labour councillor, on the phone later.
Moving forward, “they would need the support of the parks department and local councillors, and then it would just be getting the support of financing”, he said.
“I think a lot of community groups can get on board for different reasons,” he said. “The lads have paid particular attention to accessibility of all groups and all age groups.”
How to Fund It?
Google got a lot of mention in the presentation, said Noonan at the meeting, “and it would be great if they can supplement the funds submitted by the council. The more money we have, the more we can spend in our park.”
Poole said they know the park will cost money, but they are not letting that limit their ideas for the moment.
“Hundreds of people were coming to the park last summer. They’re all going to spend money in the community. With new stuff, it’s going to bring more people in,” said Poole.
On nearby Barrow Street is Google’s European headquarters. Google employees have come around to play basketball with local kids, says Denby.
“We’re trying to integrate everybody and make everybody happy,” he says. “I’m not saying they need to fund us, it would just be great.”
Some Ringsend residents are worried, says Poole, that with the introduction of companies like Google, other families are pushed out of Ringsend as employees move in.
Says Poole: “If they helped with funding, I can just imagine how Ringsend’s view of Google would change. We want Google to integrate in our community too.”
Teresa Weafer, community engagement manager at Google Ireland, says she has met Denby and Poole. She has arranged another meeting with them and local representatives for next month too.
Google is open to hearing their ideas, Weafer said. “I’m going to go along, hear what they have to say and see where we’ll go from there. Partnering is quite key to us at the moment.”
And what about funding? “I can’t answer that until I hear what they have to say,” Weafer said. Google will listen and learn and then, maybe, deliver, she said.
Poole and Denby attribute their ambition to the success of their first passion project: the basketball court.
For years, if you didn’t want to get injured, you didn’t play on Ringsend Park’s only basketball court, said Poole.
It was mossy and slippy, the netless hoops were bent and the paint lines faint on the ground.
Wanting to start a school basketball team, they asked around on how to get it fixed.
Poole’s mum put them in touch with Chris Andrews, the Sinn Féin TD, who was a local councillor at the time.
Andrews invited them down to the courts to meet with someone from the council so the boys could explain what they wanted.
“We were like, ‘Can you name it after us?’” says Poole, grinning at Denby.
Construction on the court started in October 2019, said Poole, and the new blue court was ready a few months later.
The basketball court attracts people from all over, said Denby.
“Remember the time we ordered pizza, and then the next day we ended up playing with the guy who delivered our pizza?” says Poole.
It helped them believe more might be possible for the park, says Denby. “We’ve done it before, we just have to do it at a larger scale now.”
“It gave us much more confidence,” said Poole.
Ciara Moran, deputy principal of Ringsend College, says she helped them get in touch with the right people to talk to about their park plans.
But no one had told them what to do or say. “That’s what makes it even more special.”
“They’re so passionate about it, they really want it to happen,” says Moran. “They’re so proud of the project.”
Keeping Ringsend Great
The pair, who have been friends since second class, talk fast and over one another, often finishing each other’s sentences.
It makes sense to do things together, says Poole. People know them as inseparable.
They won Best Student 2020 at Ringsend College as a duo, says Denby. “If you see Darryl, you’re probably going to see Malcolm. And if you see Malcolm, you’re probably going to see Darryl.”
People have approached them with ideas since their presentation, which was live-streamed on a local Facebook page, said Poole. “We want to be an outlet for the people of Ringsend.”
Keep pushing, people said to them, Denby says. “No one wanted it to go away.”
Denby and Poole have full faith that Ringsend will welcome new renovations.
“We don’t even have a fear that stuff will be mistreated,” said Denby. The basketball court was vandalised before it was renovated, but since then, it hasn’t been touched.
“People realise that it’s one of the best things in the area, and no one ruins that,” said Denby.
Denby said he would love to bring his children here one day. But, he and Poole have ambitions, he says, that they think may take them abroad.
They both want to study fashion at Sallynoggin College. It’s a shared passion they discovered independently of one another.
They’ve planned a label together, and have designed clothes, says Poole. “The dream would be to walk through the park, and see people wearing our clothes at our fountain.”
“What we want, we try our best to get. Anything we push for, we tried to achieve,” he says.
Andrews, the Sinn Féin TD, says he always loves bumping into Denby and Poole. “You always see them with big smiles and great energy. It just gives you a lift,” he says.
Moran, of Ringsend College, says the pair are role models to the other students. “It’s quite rare for the students to, of their own accord and based on their own ideas, go and try to make the community a better place.”
Says Denby: “We don’t want it to seem like we’re just us doing it for ourselves. But it does help that we’re young, and people are seeing that this is the future of Ringsend, and all.”
“We don’t want it to seem like it’s just us two big-headed fools,” he said. “We do have pretty big heads, but we just want to keep Ringsend great. Well, it was never not great, but we want to make it even greater.”