Stevie G: Time of change for Cork venues

The debate surrounding 'a city rising' has prompted questions regarding arts spaces, music venues, practice rooms, says Stevie G
Stevie G: Time of change for Cork venues

The rubble where once stood Sample Studios art space, which housed artists’ studios, band practice spaces, and so much more.

THE ongoing dialogue about Cork as “a city rising” brought much debate to the music community here. You only have to walk through the city to see the rapid changes taking place, and the skyline is dominated by cranes. On the surface this is great for Cork City, but it has also brought forward many pertinent questions regarding arts spaces, music venues, practice rooms, transport, cost of living, housing, and other topics which affect all of us.

The signature development that will really put Cork on the map internationally remains waited for at the same time as the student development in the same complex shot up quickly. The lack of progress regarding the events centre is very frustrating, but Simon Coveney insists he is still doing his best so we can only wait and hope.

Nearby, only a few hundreds of yards away, beyond the old Sir Henrys site on the opposite side of the river, there remains a pile of rubble that has been an eyesore for locals and tourists for nearly a year now.

Symbolically, this was a creative arts space before the building was knocked, and it housed many artists from many disciplines. It’s becoming more and more difficult and expensive to find such spaces and bands also face this difficulty. Cork is not alone here. In Dublin, many of their most iconic venues are being replaced by hotels, and understandably, there is a fear that our cities will become full of tourists with less cultural options at night. It’s happening worldwide, in truth. Protests regarding these hotels and developments are seen on graffiti and elsewhere, though there is no doubt we need hotels for progress too.

There are obviously even bigger problems: Walking through the city late at night, it is depressing seeing the amount of people without even roofs over their heads. This puts our own complaints about cultural spaces into perspective, but it’s not to diminish the issue regarding the arts, which offer an important form of escapism for people of all levels of society. The priority still has to be getting homes for people first.

Getting back to the music, there has been huge movement in the city centre lately. Well-known publican Paul Montgomery has taken over the former Clancys complex, one which is rich in history that dates back hundreds of years. Benny McCabe looks set to revamp the nearby Grafton Bar building, another venue in a great location that had fallen on hard times over recent years. Both of these developments should provide a fresh injection into the Oliver Plunkett Street area, which has been buzzing these last few years.

With the recent debate about pedestrianisation of St Patrick Street, it’s worth remembering that Oliver Plunkett Street once faced similar issues back in the day, but the fact that you can’t drive down during the day is a crucial reason why it’s so welcoming now.

Cyprus Avenue’s new development has been fantastic and there is an additional bar opening there soon, plus an extra smoking area by the club. The venue is now one of the best equipped in the country and the sound, lighting, and dressing rooms are first class.

The Crane Lane and Oliver Plunkett are two more busy venues in that area and it looks like the street itself is becoming more and more the centre of the city, with the Bróg and Voodoo thriving too.

Washington Street remains an important focal point and as you pass the Bowery on Tuckey Street, you still have Reardens, Havanas, Chambers, and the Grand Social.

It’s a shame St Patrick Street at night is not as lively as it once was with The Savoy, but Dali is still only 60 seconds from Oliver Plunkett Street while in Cornmarket Street, Rising Sons, Bodega, and The Roundy are close too.

In Cork we are lucky to have everything so close and walkable and the new Mary Elmes pedestrian bridge linking Merchants Quay and Patrick’s Quay will bring MacCurtain Street and St Lukes more into play too. On the southern side over the other bridge we have sadly lost The Sextant, but the owners have relocated into Spyglass on Marlboro Street, another bar perfectly placed to take advantage of the new footfall expected on Oliver Plunkett Street.

Down on the docks developments continue at a frantic pace, and Cork is changing before our eyes. Let’s hope we continue to have plenty of music venues.

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