Fair Play Cafe makes art from good news stories

Good News Wall a hit at Fair Play Café

By Shan Kelly
 Published On August 7, 2013

good news2 Joe

The Fair Play Café on York Road in Ringsend has teamed up with newspapers across Ireland to battle recession fatigue by creating a wall of good news stories  to cheer its customers up.

Joe Donnelly, pictured, who runs the Fair Play Café, got the idea to create the Good News Wall from the lead story of a local newspaper back in August 2011. The News Four story  was about three men on a bike  who had raised €13,000 for charity by cycling around Ireland on a tandem. It  inspired Joe to find more feel good stories like it. “We felt that bad news had gone viral during this recession. We wanted to remind people that it’s not all bad news; to create a sense of balance. We had a blank wall in the café, so I began thinking of how we could fill one wall of the café with good news,” Joe explains.

The Fair Play Café is part of the Anchorage Project, which was opened with a view to making a positive contribution to life in Ringsend.  It provides jobs, a garden centre, a place for people to eat and meet and to have children looked after.

“The whole idea behind this place is that flowers are still blooming, kids are still laughing and food is still gorgeous.  All of that helps us to contextualise bad news,” says Joe.

“That NewsFour front page was stuck on the Fair Play Café wall for ages to remind me not to give up on the idea,” says Joe. At first he just wanted to create a single row of front pages with positive lead stories.

An article in The Irish Times by columnist Roisín Ingle helped Joe  to develop the idea. He wrote to newspapers around Ireland in Januarythis year  asking them to supply seven of their favourite positive front page stories since the recession began in 2008.

Some papers responded by saying it was too difficult for them to find seven front pages with good news since the recession began. NewsFour, being  specifically focused on  good news , found it difficult to limit itself to just seven.
“We’re not trying to deny the bad news. We’re just saying that we have to get some sense of balance if we are going to survive this recession. For 15 years we were living in a bubble. Now we need to learn how to re-enter the stratosphere,” says Joe.

Today Joe’s former blank wall is covered in 84 lead stories from regional papers like The Sligo Champion, The Irish News, The Anglo Celt, The Belfast Telegraph and The Connacht Tribune. Local news sits alongside pages from national papers like The Sun, The Irish Independent and The Irish Examiner.
One front page that grabbed me instantly was a picture story highlighting Queen Elizabeth paying her respects to our war dead at the Garden of Remembrance on her historic visit to Dublin.

Another photo lead showed the face of a child rescued from rubble after being buried in the Haitian earthquake. The Belfast Telegraph story of how it created 100 jobs in 100 days stood out for Joe. Some of the funniest are from The Sun, which has its own way with words. It’s hard not to smile if you spend a few minutes at Fair Play looking at that wall.
You don’t need to be a mental health professional to agree that a bit of good news can put a real spring in your step. Lots of it can have huge benefits. Yet this project showed that some serious news organisations lacked a good news focus. The Fair Play Café hopes to invite the media to cover the launch of its good news wall later this year.

By Shan Kelly

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