No main Jazz act for Opera House after sponsorship row

IT has hosted some of the biggest names in jazz, but Cork Opera House will be without a headline act next month following a row between Ireland’s biggest drinks companies.

Guinness, which has sponsored the Jazz Festival for the last 27 years, claims it has been “restricted” from hosting major acts at the venue because the Opera House has entered into a sponsorship deal with Murphy’s, which is owned by Heineken Ireland.

Guinness’s parent company, Diageo, has issued a statement saying it was looking forward to sponsoring the festival, which will feature more than 1,000 musicians.

However, it said it wouldn’t be staging major acts at the Opera House, which together with the Gresham Metropole Hotel, has always been the main venue for the festival.

Cork Opera House has hosted jazz legends such as Acker Bilke, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie.

A spokesman for Heineken Ireland said it had put absolutely no restrictions in Guinness’s way, but refused to comment further on the issue.

Cork Opera House director Gerry Barnes said it was his understanding that Guinness “had been offered branding and pouring rights” throughout the festival weekend but had declined.

He said the Opera House agreed a three-year sponsorship deal with Murphy’s which expires in 2012. He declined to reveal the value of the deal.

Mr Barnes maintained there was no exclusivity on branding or serving drinks at the venue for the October 22-26 festival.

He also disagreed with Diageo that Guinness was “restricted” from hosting major acts at the venue.

“They have chosen to decline our offer and we wish them well,” he said.

The Gresham Metropole Hotel, the Firkin Crane, The Savoy, The Pavilion and Cyprus Avenue will be the main venues for this years’s festival, which is worth more than €6 million to the local economy.


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