'The impact it’s going to have will be brilliant': 43rd annual Guinness Cork Jazz Festival gets underway

Almost all events are sold out and last-minute accommodation options are understood to be scarce, with hotels described as being essentially booked up.
'The impact it’s going to have will be brilliant': 43rd annual Guinness Cork Jazz Festival gets underway

Danielle McCarthy setting up the stage in the Douglas Vance room at the Metropole Hotel, Cork for this weekend's Guinness Jazz Festival. Picture Dan Linehan

CORK is officially ready to swing again, with the 43rd annual Guinness Cork Jazz Festival kicking off today.

Almost all events are sold out and last-minute accommodation options are understood to be scarce, with hotels described as being essentially booked up.

The build-up to the festival, which normally entices thousands of visitors to Cork, has been “tentative” for businesses, but after the latest Government announcements, things are looking a lot brassier.

“It’s been a bit tentative but the overall story in Cork has been very positive,” said Eoin O’Sullivan of the Cork Business Association. “The weekend is usually worth somewhere in the region of €40m. We’re not expecting to reach those types of figures but the incentive is still huge. It’s a very important event for the region.

“We sell a lot of hotel rooms, bars and restaurants do very well, a lot of people use taxis, and over 1,300 musicians normally travel to the event.”

After the music fell silent last year, Mr O’Sullivan said the business community in Cork was ready to welcome the jazz weekend back with “open arms”.

“It’s a return to some bit of normality for the city,” he said. “We’re hoping for a good turnout and we want to assure people that the correct restrictions are in place in terms of safety.”

'A real sense of positivity'

Festival organisers have also been working tirelessly to make sure the event goes off without a hitch.

“The jazz is one of the first big festivals that the country has seen in 18 months and we’re so proud of that,” said festival chairwoman Fiona Collins.

Alice Cosqueric on piano with Eliecer Houeon and Ivan Herceq getting ready for the Guinness Jazz Festival in the Mirror room at the River Lee Hotel, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Alice Cosqueric on piano with Eliecer Houeon and Ivan Herceq getting ready for the Guinness Jazz Festival in the Mirror room at the River Lee Hotel, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

“The arts industry, bars, restaurants, hotels, everyone comes together for the jazz weekend, and they’re all very much looking forward to it.

“Whether it’s the sold-out events in the Opera House and Everyman, or just people wandering into town to have a look and grab lunch or a coffee, it’s a boost for everywhere, even for places that mightn’t even be directly involved. The impact it’s going to have will be brilliant.”

Ms Collins expects the remaining tickets for the festival’s events will sell out before tomorrow but, with “something around every corner”, she added that there would be plenty to see.

“There’s a real sense of positivity and excitement back around the city. It’s lovely to feel.”

High demand at Cork hotels 

No Cork business may be as excited as the Metropole Hotel, which has been busy turning its interiors into a sea of black and red this week.

“We’re all set up and are so excited to have the jazz back. It’s going to be slightly different from previous years, but it’s going to be incredible,” said hotel communications manager Sandra Murphy.

“It’s been a very long road. There’s definitely optimism but, at the same time, we won’t be taking our foot off the pedal when it comes to safety.

“But we’ll be doing that without being too intrusive to guests.”

To ensure the safety of guests, the hotel decided to limit event capacity to 25%, which Ms Murphy said management was “content” with, even after the easing of restrictions was announced.

 Joe Bartley, Guinness installing the kegs in the cold room at Cypress Avenue in Cork, for this week's Jazz weekend. Picture Dan Linehan
Joe Bartley, Guinness installing the kegs in the cold room at Cypress Avenue in Cork, for this week's Jazz weekend. Picture Dan Linehan

“The numbers are smaller, but we would prefer to have a jazz of much smaller numbers than to not have a jazz at all,” she said.

“Everything sold out within hours. We’re booked out, and we are so excited to open the doors tonight.”

The Metropole isn’t alone in seeing high demand for the weekend, with last-minute accommodation options expected to be scarce around the city.

“My impression is that everyone is pretty booked up. There’s been lots of interest and it’s always attracted people from outside of Cork. We’re looking forward to that again this weekend,” said Fergal Harte of the Irish Hotels Federation.

“It’s going to be a busy weekend for Cork, and we are absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to play our part, especially after not having it last year.”

Increased garda presence 

Meanwhile, on account of the expected crowds, an increase in garda presence will be seen around the city this weekend, with “high visibility policing” in place nationwide over the bank holiday.

"An Garda Síochána is cognisant of the further re-opening of society over this bank holiday weekend and local Garda Management will have operational plans in place commensurate with the demand for policing service in their area of responsibility," a representative from the Garda Press Office said.

"This will include increased high visibility policing activity across the country."

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