Stevie G: Cork city needs the Marina Market

Hopefully some compromise will be reached so that the city can keep its Marina Market, as we need these spaces in Cork, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Stevie G: Cork city needs the Marina Market

We need spaces like the Marina Market. Picture: Larry Cummins

The future of the Marina Market in Cork has been a big talking point this week, after the City Council’s decision not to grant retention permission for it to carry on as a food market. An appeal will follow and hopefully some sort of compromise will be achieved, but the debate around it again brings to life many issues regarding our city as a living cultural space. I’m not best placed to go into the details of the various legalities involved, but one thing is for certain, we need such spaces in Cork.

Opening up during the pandemic, the Marina Market put to use one of the many huge warehouses located in this part of the city. The timing was perfect really, as the airy and partly open air market was within walking distance from both the city centre and many of the surrounding suburbs. It was even only a short walk over the bridge from the northside too. At a time when social distancing was imperative, it proved to a perfect option for those going for a walk, and the quick expansion of food stalls caught the imagination of people here and elsewhere. The idea, which had already run successfully in other European cities, was good, and it became a go-to spot for visitors to Cork too.

The Marina Market is far from perfect and the traffic situation has unfortunately become a bit of an issue since it’s become so popular. The Port of Cork is an operating port and there are other issues too, though the Marina Market themselves have proposed to replace some of the existing parking spaces with more bike spaces and a rental hub.

Some would argue it takes even more people out of the city centre too, but I think that it complements city life, and it’s a short walk really for most able bodied people. I also note that many of the stallholders down there have existing business interests in the city too, so I’m sure they would also argue that a vibrant city centre can co-exist with a market on the edge of it.

I have long since argued here that we need more spaces in the city for cultural events. The Marina Market has an event room, and while it’s hard to achieve good sound in there, it has hosted a wide variety of events in the last year or two. Personally, I’ve hosted a few events there, though I should declare that none were for profit and all were free entry. We ran a few of my ‘Everybody Dance’ events, which I set up to provide a space for those with additional needs, intellectual disabilities, and autism. There is disabled parking but obviously like many venues, it could do with some more. It’s more accessible for those with additional needs than many other spaces though.

There simply isn’t many other venues where I could host these events. We also did a Jam event for all ages which meant under 18s could go, and we did a skating benefit for Ukraine. Marina Market hosted a huge event in May which gave many youngsters their first opportunity to perform on a proper stage to the people of Cork. There were many other arts and cultural events there too, and I’m only mentioning these to demonstrate that the city is lacking performance spaces for our youth.

I’ve been lucky enough to perform in spaces run by our own City Council, such as the City Hall and Fitzgerald’s Park, but both of these brilliant venues remain underused overall. It’s hard to get an opportunity to run stuff there, and there’s lots of overheads and red tape. Park wise Fitzgerald’s is amazing, while the Peace Park is underused and due for redevelopment. Tramore Valley Park is a bit bare and lacks a little soul. The Marina park — not to be confused with the Marina Market — has recently opened phase one of its new development, and is an option, but so far there’s been little on there. Hopefully that will change. Next door the Black Market have a smaller scale Marina Market type of operation so hopefully they will drive things on too.

Out of the pandemic there was a lot of innovation and outside events became more regular. At Elizabeth Fort there is a stage being built for more permanent events and many people with artistic leanings are looking at more options to put on events.

We still lack enough variety in regular venues, so let’s hope that the likes of the Marina Market can appease the powers that be and provide another option for the people of Cork going forward into 2023.

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