Brian Irvine is Collecting for Nest

Barbie dolls, bricks and bearskins are just some of the 'twigs' donated to Dumbworld's latest project

Brian Irvine, composer of the critically acclaimed Postcards from Dumbworld, is building a Nest. Never one to do things on a small-scale when he can super-size them, Irvine’s Nest is going to fill a warehouse in the Titanic Quarter.

Don’t worry. It isn’t time for the butterfly nets. Irvine’s Nest is an ‘unusual sort of census’. It is half-opera, half-art installation and half-archive, which is a lot of halves, but Nest is a lot of project.

Part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, Nest aims to collect a keepsake and a story, written on one side of a baggage tag, from everyone in Northern Ireland. ‘Then we take all these objects,’ Irvine says enthusiastically, sketching the scale of the idea with his hands. ‘And make a beautiful installation in the Titanic Quarter.’

Not just a visual installation either. Irvine is creating a libretto for the project, and once the Nest is complete the Ulster Orchestra and volunteers from the public will create a 500 voice strong sonic installation.

Launched at the Ulster Hall, the Nest has gathered a lot of interest already. The items that people donate, each important in some way to their life, are astonishingly eclectic.

One woman donates a balding, toothless bear-rug that her grandfather shot in India. Unexceptional to her and her sisters, it nevertheless scared their friends when they visited. She shows how they used to take his fangs out to show he was harmless.

Someone donates a brick left over from building his own house, another an antique radio with seized up insides that doesn’t work anymore.

The keepsakes range from the sublime to the surreal.

A bundle of hair tied with ribbon was kept after the original owner lost it during cancer treatments. She saved it for an art project, but now it is four years on and her hair has grown back. ‘So you can have it,’ she says.

One woman slides a box sheepishly onto the table and admits that she forget to bring anything. ‘This was just what was in my car.’

There are Christmas ornaments and antiques. Someone’s first ever camera sits next to an old pen that a student kept all the way through university.

Carál Ní Chuilín, the Minister of Arts, Culture and Leisure, has donated a book on women authors, noting that you don’t hear enough of their voices.

‘We want everyone in the country to get involved in it,’ Irvine says. ‘Go to the Nest website and register your interest. Get involved, give us your object, tell us your story, be part of something amazing!’

For more information go to the Nest website.