SOME Cork businesses have reopened their doors today for the first time in five months, under the latest Government roadmap.
Excitement and relief were the words business owners used to describe how they felt to return to work, welcoming people back for the first time since last year.
Manager of Elizabeth Fort, Rebecca Darcy, said that she and tour guides Jennifer Manifold and Jessica Cull were thrilled to be welcoming people back to the fort.
People have been able to explore the walls of the historic fort, with its spectacular views over Cork city, since last week, but its exhibition, ‘Walls Women Water’, exploring the history of the fort under its various rulers, will open from today.
The site also houses the only air raid shelter left in Cork city, which Ms Darcy hopes will be reopened to the public at a later date.
She said that the staff have been busy in the first week back in operation and that there are plans to make the fort a space where people can also enjoy a coffee and a snack after exploring the fort walls, with plans to host live outdoor events during Cork Midsummer Festival in June.
“We’re very lucky that the site is big enough that you can socially distance,” she said.
“The new exhibit is a lovely element to the site too and even though it’s small, we can stagger people coming in and monitor who we have on-site,” she said.
Ms Darcy said that the support among tour operators and attractions ahead of today’s reopening has been “great” and that Cork “has so much to see and do”.
Director of the Crawford Art Gallery, Mary McCarthy, said she has missed the public being in the building which, she said, has been very quiet for the last number of months.
“A lot of people used creativity online during the lockdown and for us in the gallery, there is nothing like having the public coming in and standing in front of an artwork,” she said.
Ms McCarthy encouraged people to come in to visit and assured the public that all Covid-19 precautions are being taken and a navigated one-way system is in place throughout the building.
“People can just walk in,” she said.
“We know that people like spontaneous visits to the gallery — you don’t want to plan it — so we know people love to pop into us spontaneously,” she said.
Ms McCarthy highlighted the importance of having diverse experiences within the city centre so that people can “do a little bit of culture, do a little shopping, and do a little bit of walking”.
The Glucksman’s senior curator Chris Clarke said that the gallery is reopening with a new exhibition that has been in the pipeline for a couple of years, entitled ‘Home: Being and Belonging in Contemporary Ireland’.
He said Covid-19 has made people more aware of how much they rely on culture as a means of learning new things and as part of their everyday lives.
“Everything has been happening through screens for the last while so it’s great to get people back in the gallery and experience the architecture of the space and seeing the artworks in real life,” he said.
“It’s an exciting time for us and we appreciate it differently now.”
Proprietor of Amy Michelle Hairdressing on High St in Cork city, Amy Shanahan said that she has been ecstatic for the last two weeks at the thought of reopening and getting back to normality.
“Hairdressing is just one of those jobs that you love your job, you love what you do, and you love the people, so your customers almost become your friends and you’re used to seeing those people every couple of weeks and now we haven’t seen them in nearly five months so I can’t wait to see people,” said Ms Shanahan.
She said that safety is paramount at the salon; all staff have been trained and the salon has all necessary safety measures in place.
Ms Shanahan’s five staff members will be returning to full bookings up to the end of June, which Ms Shanahan said is “fantastic” because they now know they have “two good months ahead”.