St Johns Eve

Project Description

‘St. John’s Eve (A Celebration of Rights of Way)’ is a reoccurring event through which a right of way and tradition of public midsummer bonfire is temporarily uncovered on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham / Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). Culturstruction are developing this project with the Education and Community Department at IMMA.

In 2012 we worked with blacksmiths Calnan & Anhoj to design and make a large-scale fire brazier for this celebration.  The 2012 celebration also included a ‘Field Walk’ through the surrounding neighbourhood led by health geographer Gerry Kearns. This was followed by music and ‘Fireside Conversations’ with contributions by geographer Ronan Foley, historian Leeann Lane, artist Ailbhe Murphy, artist Eilis McDonald, poet Nell Regan and OPW tour guide Micheal Wardick.

Originally the site of St. John’s monastery, the tradition of celebrating St. John’s Eve (Midsummer Bonfire Night) at Bully’s Acre, Kilmainham became noted for its ‘nocturnal revels’. Journals of the time make reference to what are described as ‘raucous’ celebrations. Traditionally common land (and a pauper graveyard) Bully’s Acre, and more specifically the rowdy celebration of St. John’s Eve, became the pinch point of tensions between the local ‘Liberty Boys’ and the Royal Hospital governors following the building of the Royal Hospital in 1680. Efforts by the governance of the hospital to put an end to the tradition were thwarted by the public right of way which ran through the hospital fields. The ‘St. John’s Eve’ midsummer celebration then became an event through which the local population annually exercised and activated this right of way through the Royal Hospital Grounds.

‘St. John’s Eve (A Celebration of Rights of Way)’ is an ongoing partnership with the Education and Community Department at IMMA. The project was initiated by Culturstruction in 2011 as part of a research residency exploring public engagement with the place of IMMA and the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

Download the 2012 event invite here.


Project Details


Irish Museum of Modern Art


2012 and ongoing


Lisa Moran, Education and Community Department, IMMA
Calnan & Anhoj Blacksmiths
Gerry Kearns, Ronan Foley, Leeann Lane, Ailbhe Murphy, Eilis McDonald, Nell Regan and Micheal Wardick.
Thanks to Gearoid Muldowney, James Kennedy, Mark Wickham.

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