It’s a badly-kept secret that half the pubs in Dublin have a poky little back room or a hidden staircase leading to an upstairs bar and you’d be surprised just how many of these hidden treasures have been taken over by enterprising people with a mic stand and an idea.
If you’re looking to gain a toehold into Dublin’s thriving spoken word and literary scene, you can’t go wrong by starting at the Monday Echo, downstairs in the International Bar.
The Echo features a selection of spoken word and musical acts, all hand-picked by the event’s curator Aidan Murphy. Most of the acts are Irish-based, though occasionally artists passing through from further fields are hooked in to perform a set.
There are a few things that make the Echo unique. The first is that the place is consistently packed, which is admirable for a weekly event. The event is unplugged, meaning the performers rely on their own lungpower and the goodwill of the crowd (there is a rule of respect and silence in play, which Aidan will cheerfully remind you of for no charge at all) and the close quarters mean that if you liked a particular act there’s a good chance you’ll be sitting beside them in about five minutes.
The acts are reliably good, well-chosen for the venue and the crowd. The Echo is only the latest incarnation of a long-running tradition of spoken word at the International and half the crowd are regulars, the other half drawn in by the sounds of guitar and the smell of stew. Many of the performers run their own nights as well, so your Tuesdays and Wednesdays could end up filled as well.
That’s a more mercenary plus to the night – the Echo has no cover charge, and the International Bar are kind enough to provide bowls of stew for only €3, if you don’t mind swatting away the starving artists.
It can get a little packed in there so arrive early if you want a seat. If you’re of the performing persuasion then bring a guitar or a poem as Aidan runs an open mic directly afterwards where singers get two songs and poets five minutes.
All in all, if you want to dip your toe in the world of backroom poets and staircase spoken word, there really isn’t anywhere better to start.
The Echo runs every Monday downstairs in the International Bar – doors at 7, show at 8