Outdoor performances go on, while we are eager for live music updates

There doesn’t seem to be any roadmap regarding how we are going to get the music industry started again, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Outdoor performances go on, while we are eager for live music updates

Test Site at Kyrl’s Quay is a vibrant living and breathing hub, which has hosted talks, performances and other creative works.

The pandemic has crippled the live music industry in Ireland and even now, 17 months on, there doesn’t seem to be any roadmap regarding how we are going to get things started again. Thankfully, some creative thinking means that it’s not all bad news, but first let’s look at the state of play as another summer approaches its final weeks.

The loss of the Electric Picnic, even if it was expected, is the latest in a long list of cancellations, and it comes at a time when many Irish music fans are looking at images and videos of massive music festivals in Belfast and across the channel.

In Cork, we are all delighted to reach an All-Ireland final again, but is it fair that 40,000 fans can attend that match while only a handful can go to music events? The Gaiety Theatre last weekend tweeted ironically that it could accommodate 50 people while 24,000 fans were heading to Croke Park.

No matter what way you look at it, the arts and music sectors are being treated differently, and the lack of a roadmap is very frustrating. There is a lot of pressure on the powers that be to change this, so we will wait and hope.

In the meantime, there is cause for optimism on a grassroots level here in Cork. The superb Test Site project in Cork has recently taken over a city centre space that has been sitting idle for many years. It’s a collaborative, urban research project based on Kyrl’s Quay, by the Bridewell Garda Station.

Co-created by Ailbhe Cunningham and Aoife Desmond, the project works at the intersection of art, architecture and ecology. Over the last few weeks, the project team has turned this space (pictured above), into a vibrant living and breathing hub, which has hosted talks, performances and other creative works.

It’s an incredible project that is a snapshot of just one slice of Cork City realising its full potential.

Last Sunday at Test Site, I hosted a showcase of Cork teenage music talent. It was amazing to see the place come to life as the music filtered out on to the neighbouring streets. A small, socially distanced crowd watched these youngsters perform what was mostly their first ever gigs. The performances were superb and the space looked amazing.

Test Site is a beautiful space that is bringing much-needed life and discussion to this former timber yard and sawmill. Test Site is proposed as a research space, open for conversations, workshops, and cultural activity relating to heritage and biodiversity in Cork City and beyond. Let’s hope it continues there for much longer!

Another cause for optimism is the long overdue use of some of our public parks for music events. Magic Nights by the Lee is taking place in a number of Cork City parks later this month. Local promoters The Good Room are running these free events with the Cork City Council.

I’m particularly impressed by the fact that some of our amazing parks will be used as music and cultural venues for this series of events.

Glen Park, Ballinlough Park and the Ballincollig Regional Park have not been traditionally used for many such shows, and even Fitzgerald’s Park, which had a ready made stage, is under-utilised.

More gigs in more parks please!

I used to run yearly events in Fitzgerald’s Park with Gemma Sugrue of Voiceworks. We even ran weekly acoustic shows.

It is an incredible park that has a naturally superb sounding stage and it is great to see it being utilised during the week by the odd yoga or art class. It should be used more though and hopefully Magic Nights by the Lee will just be the start of many more live events here.

We have amazing parks in Cork and we are all dying to hear some music, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

The Good Room are also bringing It Takes a Village back to East Cork and Trabolgan in mid-September.

Other shows coming soon include a two-day festival in Kinsale, with Coughlan’s Bar Promotions running the Great Beyond in Ballinacurra House. It’s another very welcome development for the music and arts scene, and promises a “brilliant weekend showcasing the very best of local and national talent, amazing food and drinks, and beautiful surroundings”.

As music promoters and artists continue to be creative, hopefully we will be able to go back indoors to shows soon too.

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