2008 Jazz festival promises diversity

THE 2008 Cork Guinness Jazz Festival is expected to have a more multi-ethnic face with a number of Arab and Eastern European bands taking part.

Festival programme director Jack McGouran revealed yesterday there would be more diversity at next year’s festival.

He also said the festival’s worth to the Cork region since its foundation could break the €1 billion mark next October.

“More than 45,000 people attended the festival this year. Our ticket sales were up 18% on 2006. The people it attracts are quality fans who are free-spending — they just don’t let up,” said Mr McGouran.

This year’s sales reportedly witnessed very heavy bookings from Canada, Australia, South Africa, Britain and the USA since early September.

“We worked closely with Fáilte Ireland this year who were promoting it in Holland and we got a lot of Dutch visitors as a result,” said programme director Mr McGouran.

The push to get jazz bands from emerging countries may concern some connoisseurs, but Mr McGouran believes it is the way forward.

Des Hopkins, whose band The Golden Age have played in 29 festivals, said he’d prefer to see more traditional dixieland jazz, but had nothing but praise for the festival organisers.

Mr McGouran, meanwhile, said: “We are catering for entirely different audiences than we were 10 years ago. Jazz is developing all the time and major influences have sprung up in Nordic, eastern European and Arab countries. There’s very good jazz, for example, in Poland and we have a Polish population in Cork contributing immensely to the local society. While we are looking for diversity we will still be getting in the big names from the USA.”

One of the highlights for young fans was the performance of Scandinavian band Jazz Kamikaze. The older generation voted for The Blind Boys of Alabama, who are actually blind, as their number one. They had dozens of people dancing in the aisles with their sell-out show at the Cork Opera House on Sunday night.

The Half Moon Theatre was a new venue this year and its intimacy went down well with 250 fans who packed each gig there.

There was a blip, however, at the Metropole — the traditional festival headquarters.

Health and safety legislation was used for the first time to limit the number of people in the hotel at any one time to 1,500. When staff and guests were removed from that figure the organisers were only able to admit 1,200 paying customers. “As a result we had to limit complementary tickets. There’s always some pain when this happens for the first time,” admitted Mr McGouran. He added it was also “a pity” that Brittany Ferries hadn’t been allowed to pull out to sea for a jazz cruise, owning to a row over a licence.

Pat Elgart, whose band played four gigs in the city, said he found the festival excellent.

“It will never move to Dublin. It wouldn’t work as it wouldn’t have the same intimate atmosphere as Cork. There’s a great audience reaction here, a very happy spirit,” said Mr Elgart.

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