Elizabeth Fort is under siege, but supplies are plentiful


Cork’s Elizabeth Fort will be full of soldiers this weekend, but they are more likely to be eating galettes than polishing bayonets, writes BARRY ROCHE

ANYONE VENTURING up Barrack Street in Cork city over the next few weekends might find themselves doing a double take when they are confronted by a succession of military types, from British redcoats, and union and confederate soldiers to Roman centurions.

Romans centurions in Cork? Before you can put on your best Monty Python voice to wonder what the Romans ever did for the People’s Republic, relax – it’s all part of the fun at the Elizabeth Fort Market, which runs at the historic venue over the next five Sundays.

The brainchild of the Barrack Street Development Association, the market kicked off last Sunday when more than 1,000 people filed through the cut limestone archway of Elizabeth Fort at the bottom of Barrack Street for an afternoon of food, fun and festivities.

Ella Goodin of the Barrack Street Development Association says the idea behind the festival is to promote Elizabeth Fort, which was built in 1601 during the reign of Elizabeth I, as a cultural hub with a space for music, theatre, dance and other groups to perform.

“The actual idea to try and open up the fort came from our safety officer, Denis Herlihy – wouldn’t it be great to open up the fort as a venue and develop it as cultural hub similar to Temple Bar – that was about 18 months ago and we’ve spent the time since trying to get the project off the ground and the market is the first step.”

Goodin, who ran a wine bar and now runs a pole-dancing studio on Barrack Street, contacted fellow traders on the historic artery into the South Gate Bridge as well as the then lord mayor of Cork Cllr Brian Bermingham and city manager Joe Gavin. She also began a marathon of correspondence with the OPW, which owns and maintains the property, and also made contact with An Garda Síochána, which has a station within the walls of the star-shaped fort. “It took a long time and the ramparts remain closed to the public because of insurance issues, although we are trying to get our own insurance so they can be opened up. We had our first market last Sunday and it was fantastic with a great crowd turning up,” says Goodin.

Some 20 stall holders brought a selection of their produce to the market, with everything on offer from artisan food such as Ardsallagh cheese and Crowe’s artisan bacon to crafts such as Alfeen Glassworks and Stone Circle Sculpture.

Among the food producers who are participating in the market is Thomas Baldwin from Knockanore, Co Waterford, whose selection of quality Baldwin’s Farmhouse ice cream went down a treat with young and not so young.

“Elizabeth Fort is a bit hidden away off Barrack Street but it’s an ideal space for a food market. It has great potential with plenty of space and I’m really looking forward to going back,” says Baldwin.

Also looking forward to this weekend’s market is Olivier Colas Le Bourvellec from Brittany, who is already well known to food lovers in Dublin and around Leinster. He is making the trek south to Leeside to sell his selection of crepes and galettes. “In France, we have food markets running in every village. In my own village, Le Pellerin, we have a weekly Saturday food market where the road is closed and the market is packed with every sort of producer,” he says. “You will find the baker man, the fishman, the cheeseman and many more – food markets are much cheaper and much fairer for the trader.”

This is not, of course, the first market to be held in the locality – more than 150 years ago it was home to St Fin Barre’s Market, which was well named given the area is in the shadow of the nearby St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, designed by renowned Victorian architect, William Burges.

“Elizabeth Fort is a jewel that doesn’t so much need polishing as just a little dusting off,” says Ella Goodin. “We’re hoping that it will become the hub of entire Elizabethan Quarter – what we want is for the area to fulfil its cultural and tourist potential and the market is the first step toward that.