Each year since 1978, on the October weekend, Cork hosts the Guinness Jazz Festival. It’s actually a fantastic four days of music, beer and craic. The city is flooded with visitors from all over the world and the locals too turn out in their droves.
The headlining acts play in the Opera House and the Metropole Hotel becomes the Festival Club. But the majority of the gigs are free. They create what they call, “the Jazz Trail,”which is simply a list of the pubs hosting live bands around the city, usually about fifty of them. Typically, a pub will have a lunchtime band, another will kick off between three and four in the afternoon and this band will play the eight ’til late slot. So you can imagine then, there’s a lot of great gigs to find all free of charge.
Even the Festival Club in the ‘Met,’ offers free gigs up to seven in the evening. You can start in the main bar at 11.00am each morning. At one ‘o clock, three other acts take to the stages upstairs while a fifth one sets up in the main bar. Then for the afternoon, there are four gigs playing and they are replaced with four more in mid afternoon and then a further four acts take you up to seven-ish. Throughout the day, guest artists from other bands are invited on stage to play with the perfuming bands. It’s spontaneous, loud and damned energetic.
Naturally with the massive influx of visitors, bed-nights are at a premium. For a couple of years the Festival organizers even hired huge car ferries to sit in the river very close to the city centre to help with the accommodation needs. Outlying towns like Cobh in the East, Kinsale in the South and Ballincollig in the West all feature hotels and guest houses full of festival goers at Jazz time. But at any time in Cork, hotel beds are in short supply.
I was mildly interested then when a company called “Sick & Sore,” lodged a planning permission with the City Fathers to berth a Boatel, or hotel on boat, right up river beside the City Centre. The 105-metre long ‘My Story’ cruise ship, which has cruised along the Rhine and Danube, is costing Sam Corbett, sole director of Sick & Sore, a cool €1.75m. It can accommodate 156 people when full and has the usual bars and restaurants as you might expect. Over the last several years the Cork Harbour Commissioners have moved, (almost), all shipping from the upper harbour to the lower harbour, fifteen miles away. They built bigger berths for bigger ships and can handle to to fifteen million tones p/a. This though has left the vast city quays empty so there is loads of room for this small 105m luxury cruise vessel on the North channel. On a personal note, I think a boatel is a novel idea.
But it wouldn’t be Ireland without some self-serving prick lobbing in an objection. Brian O’Mahony, a resident from the Wellington Rd area, has lodged an appeal against the boatel. Now, Wellington Road is a goodly distance away from the proposed Penrose Quay berth and the little boat will not be visible from anywhere on his street, so I wondered what was bothering the lad.
Get this! “He said that the decision to grant permission for the hotel was contrary to the North Docks local area plan which provides for new bridges (pedestrian and vehicular) further downstream from the hotel’s proposed mooring berth.” Well Brian, if that should happen the boat need only move down to the Horgan’s Wharf or Water Street less than half a mile away. They’re both empty. And if the worst comes to the worst, she can berth in Tivoli, miles from any bridges.
“Mr O’Mahony claimed the construction of these bridges would make it impossible for the vessel to access dry-dock facilities for mandatory maintenance.” Again Brian, ships have engines that amazingly, allow them to move about! “Other problems would be encountered with the bedrooms used by hotel guests as many would face into the quay wall at low tide, Mr O’Mahony said.” Ah! What about pulling the curtains? What’s this lad smoking? “He also claimed there is an inadequate set-down area provided at Penrose Quay to accommodate hotel guests and well as goods and services vehicles. Mr O’Mahony said the location of the set-down area would also obstruct plans for a cycle path along the quay.” There’s acres of a set-down area at the berth and fuck the cyclists.
Traditionally in this country, objectors to developments are either not-in-my-backyard merchants or in it for what they can get so I have no time for this guy. But Sam Corbett, of Sick and Sore, has a bit of form in the area of marine catering. He was involved in the removal of the “Cill Airne,” a ship that sat rusting on Cork’s South Custom House Quay for many years. That ship was refurbished and sits now on the Liffy in Dublin as a floating restaurant. That project has worked well so I do hope his cute boatel idea for Cork goes ahead too. I won’t be staying on it but I reckon for visitors to the Jazz Festival, it would be a brilliant spot to get the head down.