Shifting from being front and center to an observant spectator, I began to see beyond myself, picking up the art of people-watching. As if placing an invisibility cloak on, I would quietly sink into the blue armchair, discreetly watching peoples’ behavior and interactions with one another. I found myself creating whimsical backstories of circumstance for each passerby, intertwining chance encounters and meaningful exchanges. People-watching not only helped me to become more aware of those around me, was also as an opportunity to explore undiscovered parts of myself.
In 1841 the Republic of Ireland had a recorded population of 6,528,770, the great majority of whom worked in agriculture and lived in the open countryside. Famine and emigration had reduced this figure to 2,971,677 by the time the first census in the newly independent Free State was taken in 1926. By 1966 in excess of 50 per cent of the recorded population was resident in aggregate urban areas. Since then the people of the fields have become the people of the streets as the census of 2002 placed over 65 per cent of the population in urban areas. Such urbanisation has resulted from major structural changes in employment, In 1950, for example, agriculture sustained 43 per cent of people in employment; 21 per cent and 36 per cent, respectively, were employed in industry and services. In 2004 the comparative proportions of the million people at work were per cent (agriculture), per cent industry and 66 per cent (services). Not surprisingly some two-thirds of the country’s four million population now live in gateway cities. Despite many attempts to equalise spatial disparities in population distribution, Dublin’s primacy remains unassailable. In 2002 the greater Dublin area had a population of over one million as compared to 186,239 for Cork the next largest urban concentration; 86,998 for Limerick city; 66,163 for Galway and 46,736 for Waterford.