Coming down to earth after producing and managing a festival or cultural event is always a strange feeling. Time slows down and opens up to the rest of your life. Those all consuming days of preparation and dealing with bureaucracy just melt away and leave space for your mind to wander and your body breath deeper.
The June bank holiday was such a weekend and is always the busiest of our summer. We were up to our eyes in Cork with events on Saturday at the Ocean to City race and Cork X Southwest music festival in Liss Ard and our annual Mad Pride Ireland family fun day on Sunday in Fitzgeralds Park. The weekend was beautiful and I ended up coming out of it looking healthier than I went into it – amazing what outdoor work can do for you. Beats the computer anytime.
So now what? Back to the computer, back to the stress of running a music venue which always gets harder to programme as we head into July as Cork is one of those places that empties out – it’s a university city – from the end of June to September. The city hibernates during the high days of summer with venues, restaurants, galleries, nightclubs and bars battening down the hatches, saving the pennies and hoping that they can stay afloat by making a few quid out of the pitiful numbers of tourists that stop here on their way to Kerry or elsewhere. Its three months of hardship until the students are back and the International Cork Folk Festival kicks it all off again.
Three months is a long time to survive in this climate and i’ve never understood why the authorities in Cork don’t make more of an effort to support new ideas, projects, initiatives that would encourage people to come, stay, spend and enjoy this fabulous city for what it is. As someone who is not from Cork – and thinks it’s a beautiful place – I simply can’t understand their inertia, lack of imagination, lack of creativity and stupidity. The problem is symptomatic of what is wrong with this country namely that bureaucrats have an overbearing influence on our culture. We live in an over regulated state that is run by administrators who are so desperate to justify their existence and salary that they’d rather make up statistics, charts, graphs and spurious calculations based on meaningless formulas than actually supporting and creating energetic projects that might actually solve the problem of dormant cities and lifeless towns. But that seems to be too difficult for them, out of their grasp. It’s probably never even occurred to them.
In May of this year Cork City Council launched their new B-I-G I-D-E-A, it’s called TEAM, a unit dedicated to increasing tourism numbers in Cork. So far so good – except for the stupid acronym; it stands for Tourism, Events, Arts, Marketing – however rather than talk to those that actually run events, venues, gigs and festivals they’re going to spend the little WE have as taxpayers on marketing and PR campaigns. They seem to have forgotten that people only go to a place if there’s something worth going to whether it be the culture, weather, landscape, people. No amount of meaningless advertisements will get people to Cork if there’s nothing to see, experience. Lets be honest here, we don’t have New York shopping, we don’t have El Bulli eating, we don’t have the tropical sun, we don’t have the Tate Modern but we do, if allowed to blossom, a fun, rich and vibrant culture. But what do I know? I just produce gigs, markets, events and festivals.
TEAM are now pinning their hopes “on ‘expert groups’ “drawn from the city’s hotel, retail, restaurant, media and IT sectors to discuss ways the city can develop and improve its tourism offering”. They’re planning to, “…shake things up, do things a little bit differently. We want to reflect the unique energy and vibrancy of Cork city into an equally energetic and vibrant marketing drive that will get people to sit up and appreciate this magnificent city. 2011 will be about finding our voice, our message and shouting this from the rooftops.”
What rubbish. If they really wanted to get things happening in this city they’d be talking to those that create the vibrancy that makes this City what it is; the musicians, artists, venues and galleries. Besides if they wanted to get things moving they could start by: Insisting that the Crawford Gallery is open all weekend Supporting creative projects and events Minimising the amount of red tape needed to produce an eventPretty simple stuff. But no, instead they slap on costs for bin collections, road closures, insurance (highest indemnity in Ireland), licenses, insist on neverending safety meeting and 50 page event management plans. In short they squeeze money and energy out of the very people who are trying to add to the cultural tapestry of the city.
To date, TEAM has only managed to add another layer of bureaucracy to an already desperate situation. It’s insanity. Even worse is the fact that they think that they can run events themselves and if they can’t? They get someone from outside Cork to do it despite the fact that there are many qualified individuals, groups and companies in Cork that are well qualified for the job. Now how about that for an idea? You employ a local company who spend the money in the local economy? Hmmm….is that so hard a concept to grasp? So why aren’t the TEAM talking to us, those that make things happen in this city, why aren’t we involved? We’re the ones that create vibrancy, energy, change.
Simple answer to that. They don’t want to hear what we have to say, it would upset the status quo. So long as they keep their heads in the sand Cork will have very dry summers and in the middle of a recession dry summers often turn to drought. Just to finish with this note, since they launched over 6 weeks ago there is no way to contact TEAM. No website, no link on the City Council site, no nothing – I’ve tried googling them and all I get is articles from local papers talking about what the invitees ate at the launch;
Poached mutton with caper sauce
Smoked salmon fishcake with salsa verde
Kanturk black pudding on Tipperary apple crisp with an edible lavender flower and local rhubarb
Salted rolled mackerel served with potato rosette
A shot of gooseberry cordial Chilled gazpacho with pickle cucumber, lemon creme fresh and a parmesan stick
All washed down with two local beers, Rebel Red and Blarney Blonde
And let us not forget about what twinned cities they plan on fostering relationships (read junkets for the boys and girls) with including; Shanghai, Cologne, Rennes, San Francisco, Swansea and Coventry.Well for some. For us well we have work to do.
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