“All roads lead to Cork” for the return of the jazz festival


Social distancing and Covid certificates gave the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival a very different vibe this year, but the constant rain brought a touch of familiarity.

On Saturday, young and old lined up outside to enter the Metropole Hotel on MacCurtain Street in Cork, where the festival started 43 years ago as a replacement for a canceled bridge tournament.

Katie Swayne of Midleton and her friend Aoife Healy of Blarney, both in their 20s, said they were thrilled to see the festival return after it was canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Swayne expressed her admiration for the hospitality industry which she said was making a huge effort to keep bars safe in a time of Covid.

“It’s nice to see [the buzz] around the place. Lots of places take it [Covid] seriously enough. They still check your Covid pass when you walk in but we’re getting back to normal a bit. There is still some life in the community.

Healy referred to a street market that took place on a side street next to the Metropole. She said a lot of innovation has come from the Covid-19 pandemic, with companies striving to remain open but safe for staff and customers.

“A lot of good has come to Cork over the past year. And everyone remains careful. We are asked for Covid certificates everywhere. “

Roger Russell, Managing Director of the Metropole Hotel, said that while it was wonderful to be back with the festival, “capacity will need to be monitored very carefully to ensure the safety of all our guests and all of our team members. It’s really important.

“But one of the things about the festival is that it always brings a smile to faces and the atmosphere is always so warm and friendly.”

James Lancaster of the New York Brass Band celebrates 10 years at the festival.

“It’s really exciting. We missed it last year. We kind of feel like part of the furniture when we come to places like the Metropole. It feels like we’re back home. “

Meanwhile, publican and restaurateur Ernest Cantillon, owner of Electric bar / restaurant and Sober Lane bar in the city center, said they were busier on this holiday than in 2019, when the festival was held. for the last time.

He finds that the public and the management of pubs and restaurants are still very much aware that the country is opening at a sensitive time of the pandemic with an increasing number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals.

“I could have booked [the restaurant] outside 10 times. People are very aware of Covid and if they weren’t asked for their Covid certificates I think they would almost tell you, ”Cantillon said.

“Last night at Sober Lane we had a really good marching band that it would be almost impossible not to dance with, so we asked them to take a little more time between songs. People got down to their seats and it calmed them down a bit. We get pretty cute like that.

“We had Covid compliance officers last night [Friday]. They were very polite. They asked about our systems and since everything was fine, they left. It was at 11 p.m.

The festival is normally worth around 35 million euros for Cork City, but with fewer events, a closed airport and Covid-19 regulations, it is expected to add considerably less to hotel and bar coffers this year.

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Colm Kelleher with the Hyde Park Brass Band during the opening night of the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival at the Metropole Hotel, Cork, Friday. Photography: Darragh Kane

Cork Mayor Cllr Colm Kelleher said local business owners, bars, hoteliers and musicians are “delighted” that the festival is back.

“The hugely significant economic impact and the dynamism and energy it brings to Cork City and its surroundings are unprecedented – there is nothing else like it.

“Covid hasn’t gone away. We have to be aware of that, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get back to some kind of normalcy. This weekend all roads lead to Cork.

The festival was conceived by Jim Mountjoy, then Marketing Director of the Metropole Hotel, in 1978.

Over the years he has featured many greats including Ella Fitzgerald, BB King, George Shearing, Art Blakey and Mel Tormé. The lineup has become more eclectic over the past decade and incorporates different types of music, a movement that has had its supporters and detractors.

Headliners this year include trumpeter Matthew Halsall and the hugely popular Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, made up of seven brothers from South Chicago. The Yasiin Bey Big Band (fka Mos Def) will close the festival on Monday evening.


Willie J. Johnson

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