Coughlan’s is back — live and online

Ronan Leonard has been looking forward to the return of an institution in Cork as it takes its first steps back to a full return to live music
Coughlan’s is back — live and online

‘It’s our first time having SON [aka Susan O’Neill],’ says Edel of Coughlan's, who describes her as a ‘brilliant artist’.

“I’ve missed having our doors open — it’s like a part of you is missing.”
Not seeing customers or having live music has been very difficult for Edel Curtin, who runs Coughlan’s (current holders of the IMRO National Live Venue of the Year award).

Her business and passion are intertwined, but many months collaborating with her peers have led to the formation of a national Live Venue Collective, which has brought much-needed work to people in Ireland’s music industry as well as creating the opportunity for people to enjoy concerts again in company, albeit limited.

While focusing on the next three weeks or so of performances, she did reflect on the recent past also.

“It’s been very, very tough,” she says.

Lisa Hannigan: Played Coughlan's.
Lisa Hannigan: Played Coughlan's.

“The uncertainty of it all was the hardest. Both aspects of what we do (the live music venue and the bar trade) will be the last to return, so of course that’s a massive worry. I do think when things return to some sort of normality that we’ll be busier than ever, hopefully. People have really, really missed socialising and live music. It’s been very tough on our staff and customers too.

“It’s been overwhelming seeing how much people care though, which has been something positive to take from all of this.”

The Live Venue Collective came at a crucial time for the independent live music industry, and features other Cork venues like Connolly’s Of Leap, Cyprus Avenue, Crane Lane, De Barra’s, Kino, Levis, and The White Horse as well as mainstays like Whelan’s in Dublin, Dolan’s in Limerick, and Róisín Dubh in Galway (Cork provides nearly a quarter of the group of venues).

“We are a collective of nearly 30 music venues that have come together with the sole aim of giving voice and representation to all the small rooms and independent stages that are bones, lungs, heart, and soul of the Irish music industry,” says Edel.

“Thankfully for us, the formation of the collective and the announcement of a pilot €5m Live Performance Support Scheme happened within a few days of each other. It was the perfect time for us to pull together and apply for the scheme as a collective.

“The department were more than willing to engage with us, which was extremely encouraging, and definitely helped with the whole process. Our application was based on getting our musicians, performers, promoters, crew, technicians, and everyone involved in making a show happen, back to work. We proposed that each venue in our collective would put on 16 shows between now and January 1, creating 3,500 employment days.

“Saying that we were relieved when we heard the news that our application had been successful would be a massive understatement. This is vital support to us as an industry in these incredibly challenging times.”

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Mick Flannery show with us, so he will play on December 22

Coughlan’s took the momentum and have been recording some concerts for broadcast at a later date, and preparing for some actual ticketed live concerts.

“We started on Tuesday last with the extremely funny Bernard Casey. We really wanted to have comedy as part of our programme. When we got the thumbs up for the shows to go ahead, I really wanted to have some comedy. We could all do with a bit of a laugh at this stage! Bernard has been a guest of our Comedy Cavern before, so he’s no stranger to the place, as has Neil Delamere, who performed Wednesday.”

 It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Mick Flannery show at Coughlan's.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Mick Flannery show at Coughlan's.

Moving to the live music area, Edel talked through the upcoming schedule. “One of our very favourite acts and a regular performer at Coughlan’s, Lisa Hannigan, plays two concerts (Lisa played Coughlan’s on Thursday). Friday sees the extremely talented Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan make his Coughlan’s debut, and on Sunday (December 13) we have the absolutely amazing SON [many will remember her striking duet with Mick Flannery recorded in Crawford Gallery for the OtherVoices Courage live stream series]. The bould but lovely Mary Coughlan returns on Wednesday, December 16, and last but not least, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Mick Flannery show with us, so he will play on December 22.”

The selection process wasn’t the easiest thing for Edel.

“I won’t lie, it was difficult to decide who to approach. I really wanted to have mix of local and national artists. We have already five shows filmed with Anna Mitchell, Jack O’Rourke, Paddy Dennehy, Shaker Hymn, and Greenshine. They are all regulars at Coughlan’s at this stage. Mick, Lisa, and Mary are also big supporters of ours too, and had shows booked with us, so I really wanted to have them back.

“It’s our first time having SON and Paul. They had both been due to play as part of our festival in September so I felt it would be nice to hold on to something from that weekend, and also because they are both brilliant artists!”

Tickets allocations for the shows have been incredibly limited, but Edel says: “All of the music shows, the prerecorded ones and the live concerts, are being filmed and recorded to be broadcast at a later date. We are hoping to have a New Year’s Day special ready with a compilation of songs from all of the shows which we hope will raise some much-needed money for Penny Dinners.”

In keeping with their ongoing support for Penny Dinners, Coughlan’s also auctioned off a pair of tickets for both Mick Flannery and Lisa Hannigan, with the bidding going over €250 for each set. While Coughlan’s are in the entertainment industry, Edel takes the public health issues very seriously.

Coughlans gets set.
Coughlans gets set.

“We are very conscious of the obligation on us to keep everyone safe, so as per government guidelines, these shows will take place in our outdoor space. There will be 15 people at each show, all social distanced, fully seated, and totally safe so we’re confident in the environment we have created, and we’ve spent a lot of time getting the space looking really nice for everyone to enjoy the shows!”

  • Go to or their social media for info on gigs and live streams. They also sell live music vouchers if you are looking for Christmas present ideas.

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