Stevie G: We're back in business in music industry - let’s hope it lasts

It’s still hard to believe that the restrictions are now mostly gone, and the music industry can go back to doing what it is does best, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Stevie G: We're back in business in music industry - let’s hope it lasts

Cork’s Cyprus Avenue has a busy schedule following the recent lifting of restrictions.

And suddenly it was all over! Or was it? It’s still hard to believe that the restrictions are now mostly gone, and the music industry can go back to doing what it is does best, putting on shows. Last week’s announcements had been widely leaked as usual, but even then we were not really expecting the go ahead so quickly.

Few were even asking for the immediate lifting of everything, and venues didn’t even have time to get licencing in place for what looked like a fairly euphoric Saturday night last weekend. Venues are still scrambling for staff, who also need to be trained, but it’s much better than two years of constantly letting people go.

Will it last? We’ll have to wait and see, many of those impacted will still approach things with trepidation, but for now, we can get back to booking and playing at shows.

It’s normally a time of the year where much of the focus turns to the summer festivals, but hopefully the recent good news regarding live shows and other gigs, means that we will also see a lively couple of months in the short term. Many promoters and venues have been busy filling up their calendar even before the announcements, and the likes of Cyprus Avenue have a busy schedule already.

It’s great to see promoters and venues having a degree of certainty for once, and when it comes to booking shows, confidence is everything. The relationship between venues and promoters and agents and artists is crucial, and the music fans themselves need confidence too. It’s hard to keep buying tickets if shows keep getting pushed back, and it’s hard to keep rescheduling them too. Hopefully the promoters and venues who keep taking these risks will enjoy a stable 2022.

We’ve already seen that the big hitters remain confident in Cork and both MCD and Aiken have massive shows coming here this summer.

Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Live at the Marquee and Independent Park are all hosting big open air concerts, which would have probably proceeded anyway, but now we’ve got indoor shows coming too. We’ve lost a few venues in recent years, so let’s hope that the ones we do have get good crowds.

Last week it was announced that Marina Market are hoping to expand their operations with an additional function area possibly hosting events and exhibitions. I’ve been in this area myself and it’s an impressive space, so hopefully this will go full steam ahead. The Marina Market has been one of the success stories of the pandemic, and this new proposal could provide another badly needed option when it comes to events in Cork.

The nuts and bolts of our nightlife happens indoor in the city centre, and our best representatives and spokespeople for our needs for many years now have been the Give Us The Night organisation. They have called for a public entertainment licence which would overwrite and amalgamate the archaic dance and music and singing licences which are a hangover from the Public Dance Halls Act which was brought in in 1935. This is almost 100 years old and it’s fair to say it doesn’t make sense in 2022.

Give Us The Night have also campaigned to get rid of the ridiculous late night exemption system, which means that venues have to constantly go to court to seek special exemption orders every few weeks. The government has talked a lot about supporting the night-time economy, but this needs to be scrapped as soon as possible. Give Us The Night propose a yearly licence and this makes a lot of sense.

This two-year reset has given us all a lot of time for reflection and we have all seen the many benefits of outdoor activity in particular. The likes of the Marina Market and the Black Market have sprung up, and the City Council have put on events in our parks too.

It’s all added to the vibrancy of Cork and the next step is surely bringing our nightlife back properly.

The events centre doesn’t seem to be on the agenda anytime soon so it’s even more imperative that our existing live and late night venues gain some momentum. The knock on effects will be welcomed by the whole economy here but, crucially, it will also help the mental health of those working in the industry, and those who just want to see some shows again.

Let’s hope it lasts this time!

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