Stevie G: Great to see jazz joy return to Cork city

Cork Jazz Festival show the potential for the city to have more weekend focused music festivals, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Stevie G: Great to see jazz joy return to Cork city

Live at the Cork Jazz Festival. The weekend showed the potential of Cork city as a music festival destination.

The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival really does show the potential of Cork as a music city.
Its return this week, as restrictions lifted, was warmly greeted by the masses in Cork, and huge numbers hit the city throughout the three or four days.

Limited travel opportunities with a shutdown airport and limited train access didn’t stop lots of visitors coming here too, and it seemed that half of Cork city and county was out and about on most nights. Even the daytime was packed, and there were huge queues even in the rain for nearly every venue.

All in all, it was a successful relaunch of a festival that came back to life in increasingly uncertain circumstances in the last few weeks. The easing of restrictions were originally announced in late August, and the festival was only booked in the following weeks, as the organisers scrambled to see who was available.

A very impressive line-up of jazz artists made up a very strong bill, though the cancellation of Yasiin Beys’ Opera House show at the last minute was a disappointment to his many fans (and this columnist, who had hyped the show incessantly here in recent weeks). This was not on the organisers or the venue though, and it was one of the few downsides of a great weekend.

As someone who was DJing for the weekend myself, I didn’t attend many actual shows, but I was in the city soaking it all up and it felt good to be back.

The queues were not for me, but it’s understandable that people would be eager to get back to going out, after being in an 18 month lockdown. There was a lot of pictures of these queues all over social media on Saturday morning, with many people scornfully suggesting that those heading out were gonna be responsible for the next wave of the pandemic. This wave is already underway and I think it’s gonna get worse soon, and I also think the nighttime industry, which has been mostly shut for 18 months, is gonna be blamed once again for when it all goes wrong. Blaming young people for wanting to go out seemed a bit much.

The handling of the easing of restrictions has been once again, terrible, and a week of mixed messaging culminated in a bizarre 6pm announcement last Friday that venues would require advance ticket purchasing going forward (starting from a few weeks).

This announcement came as the doors to many venues were already open, and it only added to the immense stress and confusion that those working in the industry are experiencing. More guidelines have followed since and many feel that they are unworkable, but we will see what happens.

Will we go to another Lockdown again soon? If so the night-time industry will most likely be the first to shut again.

The venues I attended were efficient and thorough with with their checking of vaccine passes this weekend, and even though it slowed things down, it was a small price to pay for some degree of peace of mind and safety.

It remains to be seen how everything will work out but the uncertainty will remain too for many more months yet. I personally think we need to align ourselves with the countries who have successfully reopened society and I think that testing and vaccine passports are the way forward, especially now that most of us are vaccinated.

The jazz weekend is about music and fun and friends and everything else, and the buzz in Cork was amazing. It really is the place to be every October, so let’s hope we are back in business properly by next year. There’s big plans and big acts promised, so I really do think this can be the start of something special for Cork.

The jazz weekend also shows the potential of the city as a music destination, and I’ve always said that it’s a pity we don’t have more weekends that draw as many visitors, despite some notable efforts to try.

The economic impact of the weekend hardly needs explaining, and it’s a big reason why we should value our music venues and artists and people in the industry better.

Apart from economics, music is an important creative outlet for artists and audiences alike, and everyone I spoke to this weekend agreed that they missed the buzz of live music greatly. Hopefully we are now back for good!

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