Secret life of Cork

Living in the city centre, I thought I knew everything that was going on in Cork. On my doorstep, I have the English Market, Opera Lane, Patrick’s Street, historic Shandon, the Docklands, the genteel business district of the South Mall, all waiting to be discovered. And I have explored all of them numerous times.
But, like a lot of people, I don’t go outside my comfort zone too often – mostly, I go out to the same places, buy my groceries in the same shops and take the same shortcuts.
This is the first week in what’s known as ‘the silly season’. We’ve been lucky this year – it usually starts in July – but the economic conditions have meant there’s plenty of news even if most of it is bad. It’s the time of year when journalists quake at the thought of filling 96 pages – no council meetings, no Dáil, very little crime and no courts – and everyone else is on their holidays. Nobody answers the phone and nobody calls you back, and that dog that plays football in the neighbourhood is suddenly front page material.
With the Opera House closed, the majority of summer festivals over and done with, and schoolchildren starting to count down to the dreaded 1 September, it would be fair to assume that Cork has shut down for its summer holidays.
A colleague remarked to me during the week that even the streets seem to be dozing in these warm, heavy evenings. Pockets of buzz illuminate the hotspots, but by and large, Cork is quiet.
But it’s those pockets you have to watch out for. Where you see four or five, or ten people huddled outside a building, smoking and chatting, it’s worth finding out what’s going on.
This week, I’ve been having my own private Arts Week.
On Monday night, I went to see Cork playwright Conal Creedon’s two one-act plays, When I Was God & After Luke, at the Cork Arts Theatre.
Right across the river from the sleeping Goliath that is the Cork Opera House, the Cork Arts Theatre is like a brave, busy David, merrily toiling away with a packed schedule of lunchtime theatre (€10 – bargain) and short, tightly produced shows with Cork actors and production.
Creedon’s plays were marvellous – they capture Cork beautifully and with human themes that have appealed universally, as far away as Shanghai and New York. Whatever about the Lonely Planet, I bet there are a few Chinese theatre fans who are counting down the days until their trips to Cork.
On Tuesday, it was the turn of the Everyman, the grand old lady of Cork theatres, where the Cork premiere of Druid’s production of Penelope, written by Enda Walsh, was showing. The theatre was sold out, and the buzz – all ages, shapes and sizes of people – was impressive.
Despite some rather intimidating reviews in national papers, most of the crowd seemed to enjoy what is essentially an expose of human nature and its brutality and passion, wearing the clothes of a demented comedy. Well worth a watch, with an open mind.
Today, I hope to take in some art – but I’m not sure where to go. The Crawford Museum? The Cork Vision Centre? The Glucksman? Or maybe the exhibition of the adult education art classes at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa, the invite to which popped into my inbox as I was writing this.
My point is this: The city may appear to be sleeping. But there are still plenty of people here who are dreaming, and the dreams are open to all of us. Step outside your comfort zone, and dare to dream.


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