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St. Teresa's Gardens
Bizza & AliPhotography by Gerry Balfesmyth

St. Teresa's Gardens

The south Dublin community that are still rolling with the punches

I was eight years old when my father dropped me off at Donore Boxing Club in St. Teresa’s Gardens, Dublin. The noise of the speedballs and skipping ropes were deafening as we approached the door. It was a dark and cold outside, a broken street light lit up the corner of the street, the door opened and we went in. "Alright Nicky," the coach said to my Da, "pick him up in an hour." The Club (two council flats knocked together) was packed, I couldn’t move – no space, the smell of sweat and leather, movement everywhere. "Thanks Tony," my da replied, the door closed… "Time."

It was the mid 1980s in South inner Dublin and the heroin epidemic was at it’s height. The St Teresa’s Gardens flats complex was the heroin capital back then, junkies shot up everywhere and dealers took over. At one point the cops and postmen wouldn’t even go in, it was too dangerous. But over time the residents fought back and the Concerned Parents against Drugs group did a lot to reclaim their community, forced evictions of dealers and nightly patrols by the residents were the only way they could begin to address the problem.

Today St Teresa’s Gardens still has its problems but the Boxing club is still there providing an outlet for the kids, still producing champion boxers. The Regeneration Program is under way, some of the residents are being relocated to different parts of the city and some will remain in the new apartments that are being planned. The landscape of the area will change but the spirit and humour still remain.

I ended up being the boxing coach of the same club I joined when I was eight. It gave me so much over the years. As a photographer I wanted to document some of the faces and the actual physical landscape before it changes. I wanted the pictures to be honest and to project the energy from the social environment.