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After Noah

The Ark fable inspires an innovative cultural children's centre, writes Alison Norrington

The Ark was so named for children. The simplicity of the name is easily remembered and the biblical story is familiar, but the name sums up the spirit and mission of this innovative cultural base as a "safe and adventurous voyage".

Set in the heart of Temple Bar, centre of Dublin's nightlife, you will find Europe's first and only award-winning, custom-designed cultural centre dedicated to children aged four to 14 years-old. It is committed to presenting high-quality cultural experiences.

It opened in 1995, in a restored four-storey building: it houses a theatre, gallery and workshops. It is dedicated to encouraging music, drama and visual art for, by, with and about children.

Eight programmes run a year, involving professional artists who specialise in working with children, and change every five or six weeks.

On the ground floor is the modern theatre, its child-size peripheral seats cast shadows as the excellent acoustics propel excited voices. Its popularity means that schools have to book at least a month in advance for productions or workshops.

The Long Room - a workshop with a dropped ceiling of nature-inspired painted perspex tiles - created during the "Of Land and Sky" programme - hosts a range of different activities. Recently, a Bristol-based circus school taught 35 children how to juggle.

Beautiful, huge arched windows, and stairways, let in floods of natural light. Out on the small roof garden, is a marvellous mosaic throne, created in the "Mosaic Matters" workshop.

After eight years, The Ark is recognised, nationally and internationally, as a centre of excellence of arts provision for children.

The Ark, 11a Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland. Open: 9.30am-4.00pm, Tues - Fri. Box office: 10am-4pm, Mon - Fri. For prices and details of forthcoming events, tel 00 353 1670 7788; email info@ark.ie; www.ark.ie

More dublin delights

The Irish capital is home to lots of museums, many a short walk from The Ark. The National Museum on Kildare Street runs events for children throughout the summer, including talks, tours and workshops. Tel: (00353) 1677 7444.The Natural History Museum on Merrion Street Upper has changed little since its foundation in 1857. It is packed with skeletons, fossils, stuffed animals and pickled Victoriana. Tel: (00353) 1677 7444.The Chester Beatty Library in the Clock Tower Building, Dublin Castle, holds workshops on eastern culture aimed at the seven to 11 age group. They cover topics such as Islamic historical figures and Japanese art forms. It is advisable to book in advance. Tel: (00353) 1407 0750. The Lambert Puppet Theatre and Museum, Monsktown, Dublin Bay, continues to delight. Tel: (00353) 1280 0974.

St Stephen's Green, at the bottom of Grafton Street, Dawson Street and Kildare Street, is a good picnic spot, with a duck pond, playground and statues.

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