Festival for rock legend could help revive city

THE Cork Jazz Festival is a long-standing music event that takes place during the October bank holiday weekend.

It is an important cultural gathering and injects also much-valued activity to the local economy.

Surely there must an opportunity to utilise a similar template imaginatively for the benefit of the city: whereas jazz has limited historical connections to Cork, another music genre is plugged in to its core — rock guitar.

Rory Gallagher was one of the great iconic guitar players in the world.

He was ranked alongside geniuses such as Jimi Hendrix and was regularly voted a Top 10 player on the globe. The Rolling Stones once considered asking him to audition to replace their founder, Brian Jones.

His barnstorming performances won ecstatic reviews from Germany to the US. In 1977, Gallagher effectively introduced open air concerts to Ireland when he headlined the Mountain Dew festival in Macroom.

Though Donegal-born, it was clear from the accent that he was pure Cork and he rests today near Ballincollig.

So, why can the Fathers of Cork not consider creating a Rory Gallagher Guitar Weekend in the city — the May or June bank holiday weekends would be ideal. Assign the Opera House as the centre of activity but plan blues and rock guitar sessions and lessons across the city’s pubs, schools and theatres.

Ask U2’s The Edge to be chairman of the weekend. He cites a bus trip to the Mountain Dew festival to see Gallagher as a seminal moment in his glittering career.

By signing up to front this event he alone would draw huge numbers.

Key concerts could be streamed over the internet.

The Cork School of Music should be asked to construct a degree course in blues and rock guitar, and it should be known as the Gallagher degree.

Its students could then graduate during the Rory Gallagher Guitar Weekend.

Shops and restaurants could theme the weekend in support of the idea too.

If such an event was properly structured, and set in stone for many years, it too could attract a global sponsor to fund promotion worldwide.

No-one is going to hand Cork a menu of ideas to help dig it out of the unemployment that afflicts the area currently.

It must find solutions for itself that do not draw on the Exchequer but instead leverage any natural advantages it has.

Music of all genres has long been a feature of Cork society, from the powerful traditional music of the likes of Sean Ó Riada to the more recent jazz weekends that attract world leading artists.

There is an opportunity now to tap a global interest in the rock guitar.

All of this would be an appropriate recognition of Rory Gallagher’s important contribution to the world of rock music, and a worthy acknowledgement of a great son of Cork.

It would be valuable too in helping an economy deeply affected by the recession.

A successful event could fill hotels, guesthouses and restaurants for a week.

And, in the process, the Rory Gallagher Guitar Weekend could help Cork keep its position as one of the coolest cities on the planet.

Joe Gill is director of research with Bloxham Stockbrokers.

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