Stevie G: Lessons learned from Cork Jazz Festival

Stevie G reflects on Cork Jazz Festival and asks, why can't the streets be this busy all the time?
Stevie G: Lessons learned from Cork Jazz Festival

The atmosphere of Cork in the sunshine, with jazz bands walking through the streets, is hard to beat.

ANOTHER jazz festival down and some well earned rest for all of the musicians, bar staff, restaurants, promoters and other people who will be left wondering why this is the one weekend of the year where Cork is packed to the rafters non stop. For around 30 or 40 years many have been trying to re-create that vibe on other weekends and I’m always asking myself why the streets can’t be this busy all the time?

I spent most of this weekend in Cork city by daytime and early evening, and despite horrible rainfall on Friday, it was once again evident that when the weather is any way good Cork is one of the best places to be to go party when there’s lots on. It’s a very walkable city full of interesting bars and restaurants and cafes and on the Jazz weekend there is an extra buzz because it is effectively a street party too. The market area over by Emmet place is flanked by a live music stage and it greatly enhances that area, and also takes pressure off the already full restaurants and cafes food-wise.

Oliver Plunkett St is pretty much pedestrianised already and has become a great example of how effective this can be, in bringing life to a city centre. Back in the day, when it was first pedestrianised, there was a lot of objections, but it takes vision to shape a city’s future. Many of the same objections now surround the part pedestrianisation of Patrick Street, but the local traders need to be supported too.

Patrick Street has hardly a bar these days and nearly everything is located off the side streets. It would be great if it was more affordable for independent ventures to go in and make a go of things there as it is the central channel linking Cork city.

City centres face numerous challenges all over the world, and high rent and rates make it increasingly difficult for independent operators in particular, to trade. In Cork we’ve had tons of such shops and venues close down, but there are still many more around, and the independent spirit of our traders is an essential part of the make-up of our city. These shops can go hand in hand with the bigger national and international stores that also help attract people to here.

The jazz weekend is pretty much a boom time for everyone. If it could be replicated more, many more of our shops and bars and venues could survive and thrive, but why is it that next Saturday in the city it will be much quieter? I think more pedestrianisation would defo work, but we need to get better public transport too and that includes safe cycle lanes.

At least now we have late night buses which definitely help. The festival has done some good things and they’ve definitely, through various guises, taken the party to the streets more. But I do think they need to have a greater vision when it comes to booking more cutting edge acts with a jazz link: Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, et al, would work amazingly.

Regarding the city as whole, the challenges are many. The daytime party vibe is one way that things can improve. It’s a family affair and it also bumps up trade very significantly for all those involved.

The atmosphere of Cork in the sunshine, with jazz bands walking through the streets, is hard to beat. There is no reason why we can’t do street parties every week. The knock-on effect is great for everyone involved.

As it stands, on a regular weekend, we have a different mindset. If people only go to pubs for an hour on a saturday and then maybe a club or late bar after, it means the window of opportunity for many trading in that business is tiny. We all know that that Saturday night between 10pm and 2am is where it’s at, but it would be great if Cork was buzzing more of the time. It’s a young, vibrant and multi-cultural city, and every visitor here will tell you they love to come and party here.

Sadly, we have the same social problems that are echoed in many other places, and those of us working in the city at nights can see this more than anyone. The amount of people sleeping in doorways is incredible, and it’s sad to see that this problem seems to be getting worse year on year. It also puts my thoughts on the city nightlife into perspective, and it’s a reminder that we all take a lot for granted every day.

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