Midsummer fest fills in silent gap 

Engaging festival is capturing the imagination of many in Cork, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Midsummer fest fills in silent gap 

Elaine Malone performs at Beaumont care home as part of Cork Midsummer Festival.

Our second summer of the pandemic is following a similar trajectory to the first at the moment, and the longer summer nights mean the streets are alive with people again. Bars and restaurants are serving outside but music remains pretty much out of reach. The nearest I got to experiencing a big music event with people was when I walked down Oliver Plunkett Street last Saturday night, passing the end of night pub revellers as they took over the street for a big sing song.

The vaccination programme is now making steady progress and we should be at least approaching the later stages of this pandemic, though hopefully we won’t get complacent about it too. Music seems to be have been treated particularly harshly by the powers that be, and even tiny weddings with a handful of attendees are being told they need to do without it. Musicians and artists and everyone else connected to the live music industry remain frustrated, and yesterday there was a socially distant silent protest from Cork based musicians and supporters on the Grand Parade.

“Cork music industry Stands up” made two demands. They want a roadmap for when they can return to work, with additional supports until it does, and they also want outdoor live music to be allowed. They are pretty reasonable demands (notwithstanding the ongoing uncertainty regarding new variants), but the fact that even small events with low volume can’t take place outdoors seems a bit crazy in 2021. Lots of people in this industry were the first to close and it’s an industry which will also be the last to return to work.

On a more positive front, the Cork Midsummer Festival is doing a fantastic job at the moment despite the restrictions, and they have used all their creativity building a fantastic and engaging festival that is capturing the imagination of many in Cork. They have helped bring the streets alive through numerous events, and they have provided some much needed work for many artists too. I’m looking forward to DJing at their Elizabeth Fort music and dance jam this weekend, with a host of great Irish talent.

The government has also last week announced 25 million euro in funding for the live music and entertainment sector, which will mainly be concentrated around helping outdoor festivals in the next few months. Some of this money will be channelled into Cork via different festivals and events. The promoters of Indiependence Festival, who announced last year that they are to leave Mitchelstown, have a proposed live series of events in Tramore Valley park. Padak Limited have received funding for some gigs at the Crane Lane theatre while Sample Culture have received funding for the festival they have been running in Trabolgan, It Takes a Village.

All of this funding is welcome and will trickle down to some music artists and others who work in the live sector. The Electric Picnic, which never really looked likely this year, have been very bullish about their festival going ahead, and last week they announced that they will be moving it to late September. The Picnic, which has also received funding from the government, will hope, like us all, that some degree of normality has returned by then, and as I’ve stated previously, autumn is where we really should be hoping to get all of our venues open.

Other socially distant events will continue to run before then, but most promoters are accepting that the reality of the situation means we are still a few months away from making proper progress. Sadly for those of us who work in clubs and do parties, things are gonna remain very slow for the summer. Many festivals, like the Midsummer, will continue to be creative regarding programming, and I know that Cork Pride have an ambitious hybrid festival coming in July. The big huge street party that takes over the Grand Parade will have to wait for another year, but for now, Cork Pride and other festivals will make the best of what they have got.

The outdoor seating has certainly transformed the city and county for the better, and as we await the go-ahead for inside drinking and dining, we have all been reflecting on how much better it makes things in various cities and towns. The government now needs to reform our archaic licensing laws in line with these new changes. We are living in terrible times, but there remains a big opportunity to revitalise the music and entertainment scene here going forward.

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