In the past few weeks, this site has played host to discussion and comment on a wide array of aspects of the Covid-19 crisis, pertaining to its financial effect on Cork music’s constituent parts, the counter-measures taken by them to utilise new technology and make the best of the situation, as well as the personal effect on all involved of the reality of self-isolation, on human and creative levels.
For one sector of local arts, however, the current crisis takes a very involved set of roles and complicates them even further.
Last week, It Takes a Village announced that its Trabolgan weekender in May was to be rescheduled to the same time and same venue next year, citing a desire to ‘move forward, with hope and positivity’.
Tuesday saw Cork Midsummer Festival and Cork Harbour Festival take similar measures amid the ongoing crisis, with respective programming under the two banners subject to cancellation.
Running a festival, in case one hasn’t hazarded a guess, is tough going. Moving parts abound, working relationships are forged and then thoroughly exercised, and the general effort and motivation that goes into conceptualising, planning, promoting and executing a festival is monumental, to say the least.
Not that there isn’t fun to be had, or a sense of accomplishment in seeing an idea go from rough outline and Excel sheet to ‘on-sale’ time and festival time itself, but by and large, it’s the slog of the few that love their craft, and wish to celebrate its communities.
In the past two weeks, a number of festivals around the country have announced postponement, and outright cancellation, as the immediate measures undertaken to slow the spread of the novel Covid-19 are anticipated to give way to prolonged economic and infrastructural disruption.
Cork’s festival circuit is no different, unfortunately, with a number of weekenders, all-dayers and programming weeks all considering their positions.
It Takes a Village, set for Trabolgan holiday village in May, has taken the decision to cancel until next year, while city-centre ‘design and food’ festival Design POP has postponed its events to later in summer.
The organisers of student-run Half-Moon Festival, its debut edition scheduled for late April to early May, have also had to significantly reorganise.
Around the county, community events like Mallow Arts Festival have taken the hit by planning for post-crisis programmes staggered out over the course of individual events.
Meanwhile, organisers of events slated for August Bank Holiday weekend, like staple summer weekender Indiependence, and city-centre metal excursion Monolith III, are awaiting further official instructions, remiss to comment much further amid uncertainty.
“While Monolith is still quite a while away, there are obviously some concerns as to whether or not it will go ahead”, says Monolith festival organiser Con Doyle of the event, happening at Cyprus Avenue.
“Lack of information from our Government certainly doesn't help matters. Fortunately, we have yet to have any cancellations, but who knows what the future will bring.
“Ticket sales have gone from steady to pretty much non-existent as people, understandably enough, don't want to take the gamble. The coming weeks will be telling.”
The most immediate concern thrown up by the current circumstances were the dual questions of artist availability later in the year, due to the possibility of further self-isolation/social distancing, and the question of large gatherings, prior to the temporary imposition of restrictions on same.
The booking and logistics ends of a festival are among the most demanding, a situation compounded by the current measures.
Hayley Douglas, one of the committee behind Half-Moon Festival, speaks on the concerns of reorganisation and alternatives.
“The safety of our artists, our audiences, our collaborators and our organisers is our first priority, as it is for many event organisers in the arts.
“Given that we want our events to be safe for all participants, we still want to organise events on an online platform and create a space in which people can come together.
“Our mission has always been to create a festival that celebrates different perspectives and embraces collaboration. We are now working to try to find alternative ways of fulfilling this mission while still orchestrating something unique for artists and audiences alike.”
For county-based programmes like Mallow Arts Festival, a week-long programme aimed at promoting the role of arts in the town’s daily life in a similar fashion, such uncertainty has also had a profound effect.
“We’re still a small festival, but from day one, we set out to be as all-encompassing of the arts as possible”, says festival director Tadhg Curtis.
“Running in excess of forty events in the space of five days requires a hell of a lot of planning, and that starts right from the start of the year. We’d been engaged in that, had meetings and shaped out the festival for July.
“One of the things we need to tie down is the headliner for our gala concert, on the first night. We rely quite a lot on that to bring in revenue to fund the free entertainment we provide over the following four days.
“We had it narrowed down to two acts that we were negotiating with, and we were to finalise that, literally two days after St. Patrick’s Day, but of course there’s been no meetings since, and we can’t do that.”
From the perspective of booking and artist relations, the emphasis has been on all sides to discuss terms that are workable in circumstances that there certainly isn’t a rulebook for.
“Agents have been very understanding and have offered extra time for down payments, et cetera”, says Doyle of the run-up to Monolith.