‘Closer cultural and business links can help Cork thrive’

Shane Clarke, CEO, Nano Nagle Place, Mary McCarthy, director, Crawford Art Gallery, Cork Chamber board member and panel chair Orla Flynn of CIT, Lorraine Maye, Cork Midsummer Festival director, and Jean Brennan, Cork City Council arts officer, at the Cork Chamber/Irish Examiner Business Breakfast at Nano Nagle Centre, Douglas St, Cork. Photo: Larry Cummins

By Padraig Hoare

The sometime disconnect between the arts/cultural sectors and the business sector in Cork must be bridged if the city is to thrive socially and economically.

That was the message from leaders in both sectors at Cork Chamber’s monthly business breakfast, which was held for the first time in the restored Nano Nagle Place in the city centre.

Chamber members heard from panelists that the River Lee has to be utilised more to enhance the city’s cultural and business offering, and that there is a need for “five or six Fitzgerald’s Parks” as public realm spaces.

Chief executive of Nano Nagle Place, Shane Clarke, said London Bridge was an area that could provide inspiration for Cork as it set out to attract the best talent to live in the region, having a richer cultural offering than the financial centre of Canary Wharf.

Talent from the ages of 25 to 35 are “demanding to work in different places” than those of the past, Mr Clarke said.

Firms are able to attract new talent today because of the cultural offering of a city, he said.

Public realm is still lacking in the city, said Mr Clarke, adding that five to six facilities like Fitzgerald’s Park would make a positive difference.

Culture should be at the fore of a city’s economic thinking and strategy, he said.

Director of Cork Midsummer Festival, Lorraine Maye, said that there is an incorrect perception that collaboration between the arts/cultural sectors and businesses wrongly means chasing firms to open their chequebooks.

That misguided fear often stops important introductions and meetings that could enhance the collaboration, she said.

The runaway success of Cork’s annual Culture Night has to be replicated throughout the year, she said.

Mary McCarthy, director of the Crawford Art Gallery, said the relationship between business and culture is a lot closer than perceived.

“We all run businesses. Very often we have the same stresses,” she said.

Currently, in Cork, there is not a high corporate sponsorship network for culture, and it is largely relying on individuals, said Ms McCarthy.

Jean Brennan, arts officer at Cork City Council, which is a main driver of Cork’s annual Glow Festival at Christmas, said that cultural assets are vital in attracting foreign direct investment into the city.

Capital infrastructure plans promised by the Government in the national plan have to be delivered upon if business and culture are to be brought together, Ms Brennan added.

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