Four Stars Irish Times


Ballymun Lullaby (72min)

A Film by Frank Berry

Music teacher Ron Cooney has been working in the Republic of Ireland's only high-rise housing estate for fifteen years. During this time he has seen the area undergo a dramatic transformation, including the demolition of six of it's seven tower blocks. The young people of Ballymun have had an extraordinary experience, and Ron sets out to produce a collection of music that gives voice to their story. Working with composer Daragh O'Toole, Ron's ambition is to create a 'world class' collection of music for his talented students to play and write lyrics for.


This music will challenge the negative views many still hold of the area – views that have the potential to hold his students back, and undermine the aims of the Ballymun Music Programme. The music that is produced attracts the attention of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, and is soon recorded by them in a unique collaboration with the students. A dynamic funny and driven man, despite his own health problems, what Ron and his students have achieved is simply amazing. 'Ballymun Lullaby' is a story that needs to be heard.


General Classification

  • 'One of those rare documentaries for which the term warm-hearted was invented' - The Irish Times

    If there was a Ron Cooney in every school, the country would be a far better place. His belief in the transformative power of playing music – to motivate, inspire and help children from a disadvantaged area realise they have options – made Ballymun Lullaby (RTÉ1, Tuesday) one of those rare documentaries for which the term warm-hearted was invented. Read More

  • 'Uplifting, full of hope, moving and beautifully made' - RTÉ Ten

    When Bono sang "I see seven towers but I only see one wait out" on Running to Stand Still he was referring to the blight of heroin that had engulfed Ballymun, the high-rise tower blocks built in the sixties as a short term answer to the city's housing crisis. Ill-conceived and planned, the complex inevitably sank into a morass of anti-social behaviour and the scourge of hard drugs by the 1980s. Read More

  • 'Stirring' - The Irish Times

    MERYL STREEP brings violins. Antonio Banderas brings ballroom dancing. The underprivileged school enlivened by a music programme is a well-worn staple of contemporary cinema. By now, we’re so accustomed to the beats of the inspiring teacher drama that we’re seldom surprised when the plucky, downtrodden youngsters of the projects beat the legacy brats of Snootington Academy in the final reel. Read More

  • 'Heart-warming and simply superb' -

    “It’s not about the music.” In describing how he feels about teaching the children of north Dublin’s notorious Ballymun, the ebullient music instructor Ron Cooney taps into the message that lies at the very heart of Frank Berry’s superb feature documentary, Ballymun Lullaby. Read More

  • 'A towering musical tribute to the regeneration game' - Sunday Independent

    SEVERE housing shortages in Dublin, especially for young families, was part of the reason that the Ballymun towers were built in 1966. Read More

  • 'Worthy and worth seeing' - Irish Independent

    There are some things that are worthy and some that are worth seeing, and then there are some things that are both worthy and worth seeing. And this charming new documentary by Frank Berry is both worthy and worth. (...) The body of the documentary follows various students as they prepare to record the Ballymun Lullaby EP, and if this makes the film sound dull, in fact it's anything but. Read More

  • 'A definite must watch' -

    Ballymun Lullaby, directed by Frank Berry is a moving documentary based on music teacher Ron Cooney’s instillation of a love and appreciation of music among Ballymun students. As the documentary details, Cooney has been teaching in the North Dublin area for 15 years, and has seen the district change and develop drastically over the years. Read More

  • 'Charming without being sickly sweet and moving without being patronising' - Evening Herald

    This low-budget film is quite an achievement. The 72 minute documentary focuses on Ron Cooney, an inspirational music teacher in the classic mould, as he marshals his pupils while they put together their contributions to record the EP of the title, Daragh O'Toole having written the music itself. Charming without being sickly sweet and moving without being patronising, Ballymun Lullaby is well worth a look and indeed, a listen. Read More

  • 'A terrific documentary' - Highbrowse

    When it comes to images of urban deprivation in Ireland, nothing beats Ballymun. Moyross in Limerick may come close but the flats in Ballymun have always been the epitome of the modern day slum, at least in the minds of the media. The actual people who live in Ballymun have always protested about their area’s depiction as a hellish, no-go area. They’ve spoken about the strong sense of community in the estate, despite the social problems. Well finally we have a film to give these people a voice. Read More

  • 'Proof that all environment really has to influence is your accent' - Le Cool

    Nobody wanted to come to Ballymun Lullaby with me. And not because I'm a Norman No Mates. They were worried that it would be a paternalistic cringe fest wearing a knuckle-duster and a baseball cap. So their loss, because it really wasn't. Read More

  • 'Heart-warming' - Film Ireland (Film of the week)

    Ballymun Lullaby is a gentle heart-warming documentary centred on the inspirational music teacher Ron Cooney who teaches children music in the Ballymun Music Program. Composer Daragh O’Toole has composed a suite of original music and collobarates with some of Ron’s pupils, Tara, Wayne and Darren on the lyrics in preparation for a concert. Read More

  • 'The most enthusiastically received picture' - The Irish Times, Dublin International Film Festival

    If anyone had felt minded to hand out a prize for the most enthusiastically received picture, Ballymun Lullaby would have been a hands-down winner. Frank Berry’s stirring documentary offers a cheery portrait of Ron Cooney, the inspiring music tutor behind the Ballymun Music Programme. A behind-the-scenes account of the making of a 2009 EP, the film recreates the area’s famous sense of community, with lively contributions from composer Daragh O’Toole, former Dublin 11 resident Glen Hansard and talented students Tara, Wayne and Darren. Read More