The loss of Camden Palace and the inner city version of Sample Studios further limits our spaces, and it’s particularly frustrating watching these sights lay vacant in rubble waiting for the next apartment block or hotel in projectsthat can sometimes take over 10 years. Did I mention the Events Centre?
There is a now a young generation of bands and singers and rappers and other artists, who will be very limited with regard to suitable performing spaces, when we do eventually get through this pandemic. I was speaking to a few of my friends lately and we were discussing how things would have been much more difficult for us growing up if we didn’t have venues and gigs to go and see shows. Even taking away the limits it now puts on performers, promoters, sound engineers and other behind-the-scenes folk, for the average music fan it’s gutting really.
For big mainstream shows people usually have to travel to Dublin. Bar the Marquee and Independent Park, both running simultaneously in the summer, when was the last big show in Cork? Take out the couple of huge Páirc Uí Chaoimh gigs and the answer becomes difficult. Indiependence festival is now finished in Mitchelstown, and it’s hoped that a move nearer the city will fill a large gap in our music calendar. But for regular grassroots shows and gigs the outlook looks very grim. We luckily still have venues such as Cyprus Avenue, Coughlans, The Roundy and more, but the options are becoming more limited by the month.
Cork is supposedly a music city and we proudly talk ourselves up in this regard. Our heritage runs deep and it was recently celebrated in the Cork City Library (the Rory Gallagher music library nonetheless) by at event which marked the legendary Kaught at the Kampus series of shows 40 years ago. These gigs at the old Arc, now apartments, were very influential in helping cement the legend of acts like Nun Attax, Microdisney, Mean Features, Urban Blitz, many of whom would go on to become hugely influential in various outfits for many years.
It was great to see this rich heritage being acknowledged. I helped organise a Sir Henrys exhibition in 2014 in UCC. Cork City Library and UCC are two huge bastions of Cork society and culture, and both were great in supporting this mainstream appreciation of what was once counter-culture here and elsewhere. Ray Scannels “Deep” play was based on his experience growing up going clubbing in Sir Henrys, and its been broadcast on RTÉ radio a few times too. The Irish Examiner and The Echo and other publications, are full of great articles acknowledging this Cork cultural history too.
The Irish government and tourists boards promote us as the land of “craic and ceoil”, and our best artists are now often on The Late Late Show and are finally getting widespread media attention. We all recognise the importance of music and culture. But where are the venues? Where is the support for venues when the landlords decide overnight that apartments and office blocks will make for a more economical success? How many venues are protected by legislation like all arts spaces should be? Dublin has become gentrified, Brooklyn and Soho in New York have become the same, and it seems this is a pattern for cities worldwide now.
Cork is in many ways the perfect city to live in. But it’s sad that the next FishGoDeep, Frank and Walters, Mick Flannery, Sultans of Ping, Rory Gallagher, Stephanie Rainey or whoever else, will be significantly limited by the lack of venues as they emerge in the next 10 years.
This generation has already been badly affected by a recession and a global pandemic, and as they attempt to pay the increasingly high rent prices in what were once venues, they are left with even less creative options or outlets as venues flip from the music and arts to offices and apartments.