This autumn sees Cork alive with festival fever – we’ve just had the Guinness Jazz Festival and the Corona Cork Film Festival, both a great boost to business as we face into winter. Hotels, guesthouses and bars were reporting increased business during the festivals, and I’d hazard a guess that Kinsale and Clonakilty might have benefitted too. With arts funding in a downward spiral, it’s good to see that brand names such as Guinness and Corona are still willing to support these Festivals – long may it continue and long may we appreciate and respect these sponsors!

Cork’s love affair with playing ball was perpetuated in October when we saw the lads involved in the GAA Forum launch their Final Report on the feedback from most of the Cork clubs on how democratic structures could be improved generally in Cork GAA. It looks like the city and county worked well together on this one so well done to all concerned. No more tug-o-wars eh?

‘Julia’, the darling of West Cork, is lording it over us all as she graces the Custom House Quay in Cork awaiting the off for Swansea. I met with new CEO Tom Barrett (sure he’s a Corkman himself!) and he’s making great strides to have everything ready on time. Hopefully Her Majesty’s presence in the city will draw in additional investors who can see the spin-off potential for city and county.

Another giant on the scene – UCC’s €48.7 million research institute – The Tyndall National Institute – was opened by Minister Mary Coughlan this October and it is a truly awesome building. Specialising in ICT hardware research, commercialisation of technology and the education of next generation researchers Tyndall has a critical mass of over 370 researchers, engineers, students and support staff. Many of Tyndall’s PhD graduates go on to pursue careers in industry. So there you have it folks – a world-class research centre right here in your own county!

And what about Cork being voted the tenth best city in the world to visit by The Lonely Planet, the bible for travelers? I met Carissa Casey of the Sunday Times when she popped down to check it out for herself and she wrote a great piece subsequently. The news got great coverage regionally and nationally so that can’t be bad. The main thing is that Cork is being written about in a positive light and hopefully it will be a ‘must see’ for tourists from here on in.

Although Christmas is just around the corner it is plain to see that people are not shopping to the same extent as before here in the city. During the Halloween break when children were off school the city seemed busy, until you looked at what they were carrying. The Penneys, Debenham and BT shopping bags were few and far between. Now there’s a little more activity thank goodness, so perhaps there will be a final surge to save the day for the traders that are suffering.

Looking at the social scene it seems to be the Ladies Charity Lunches that are doing well. I spoke to two hoteliers who attested to that, and it seems that the business events are suffering quite a bit. It seems to me that networking is more important than ever, and dealing with people you know is the safer option. People are working harder for a lot less money, but at least there’s work coming down the line, albeit with lesser values than last year. The chant here in Cork now is that ‘breaking even is the new making profit’!

What’s coming up in Cork in the next few weeks besides great shopping? The Opera House is staging the panto ‘Jack in the Beanstalk’ and The Celtic Tenors in December and the opera Carmen in January, while at the Everyman Palace Theatre ‘Aladdin’ is the Christmas panto there. John Spillane has a show at the Everyman before Christmas, as does the legendary Donal Ring, while Sunday Night at The Palace on the 13th December will have a distinctly Christmassy slant.

If you’re coming to Cork for a day I’d recommend lunch at The Farm Gate at the English Market when you can pick up delicious artisan foods afterwards at the Market itself. Greene’s Restaurant in MacCurtain Street is always great for food also, while The Boardwalk Bar & Grill is the place to go for atmosphere and great food. In fact, that neck of the woods by the Clarion is a buzzy place at any time of the day.

If you’re staying over for the night in Cork (and there are fantastic overnight offers!) you could try the Montenotte Hotel which is only a roll down Summerhill to the centre of the city or the Imperial Hotel which has been refurbished over the last year and close to Canty’s, the lively Crane Lane, Scotts and the quaint HIB Bar upstairs opposite the GPO. Then for live music there’s The Pavilion on Carey’s Lane just off Patrick Street, which has bands most nights and will see Damien Dempsey, The xx, Jerry Fish & the Mudbug Club and Frank & Walters perform there during the Christmas party season. The Bodega on Cornmarket Street is another great venue and very stylish to boot. There’s a wonderful jazz band called Rouge in residence there every Tuesday night.

And on that happy note may I wish you and yours an early happy Christmas and a comfortable New Year – may we all get less and give away more!

Mary

Mary Hopkins is Chairman of Hopkins Communications Cork