Cork Jazz Festival


As you can read in last week’s Cork Independent, the Cork Jazz Festival came about when then hotel manager Bernard Casey panicked after a conference cancelled on him and needed something to fill his hotel for a weekend. Necessity is the mother of invention!
Hard to believe that such a major institution of Cork life started off as a stop-gap commercial decision, but when you think about it, perhaps not.
Commercial decisions are usually made with one thing in mind – the marketplace. Supply and demand make the world go around.
At the time Cork did not have a festival, and one thing every city needs is a landmark event to draw people in who will spend money, and perhaps draw local people out to do the same. Galway has excelled at this, and, having lived there, I know it’s like a merry-go-round of festivals and calendar dates that keep what is essentially a big town ticking over, and keeping it at the economic level of a city.
A lot of socially-minded Irish people – former Arts students and the like (I include myself in this, by the way) – tend to think of business as ‘a bad thing’, by definition of the fact that it’s designed to make a profit.
For many, calling someone ‘a PD’ was for years the biggest insult you could give, because it was meant to imply that you would privatise your own big toe and sell your granny, while leaving the little people to starve.
Now, I’m not making an out-and-out argument for pure capitalism – obviously, there are flaws to every system and capitalism has shown us in the past year that its flaws are many and, sometimes, insurmountable.
But when pure capitalism creates something as enjoyable and as atmospheric as the Cork Jazz Festival – enabling musicians to play music not for profit, but because they love it, and enabling the public to hear free live music of all standards (and none) in a legion of venues across one city.
Granted, there were some pubs you couldn’t get Beamish or Murphy’s in, because it’s the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival. Which is annoying, I suppose. I don’t drink either of those (or Guinness, for that matter), so personally I wasn’t bothered. And, working for a commercial business has taught me the importance of branding, so I was willing to trade-off the omnipresent branding for the buzz and atmosphere of live music and good company.

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