Cork Jazz Festival draws 40,000 fans and 1,000 musicians

Event started in 1978 as a last-minute replacement for cancelled bridge tournament

Up to 40,000 people descended on Cork at the weekend for the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival.

The festival is celebrating its 38th birthday, featuring more than 1,000 musicians from almost 20 countries. Headline acts this year include Robert Glasper, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Jason Marsalis and Sheryl Bailey.

The festival first took place in 1978 and has since hosted many of the greats, including Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald and Buddy Rich.

Regarded as the single most profitable festival in Ireland, it generates some €15 million for the local economy.


Cork's Lord Mayor, Cllr Des Cahill, said the annual weekend was a huge boost for local tourism.

“For a festival to have the longevity that this has is testament to the pubs, it is testament to the organising committee in particular and to Guinness for standing by the event for this length of time. It is improving again and the numbers are increasing again.”

Cork Business Association chief executive Lawrence Owens said the festival was a key event in the city every year.

"People travel from the UK and Europe to Cork year on year and it really has the benchmark now as one of the top festivals of its kind. It brings a great boost to retail and hospitality."

Non-jazz acts

American jazz pianist Justin Kauflin opened the festival at the Everyman Palace Theatre on Friday night in a double bill with jazz star Jacob Collier. In a widening of the festival remit, non-jazz acts also participated with Picture This, BellX1 and Loudon Wainwright III also performing gigs in the city.

Major names performing on the Guinness Music Trail include Interskalactic, the Ben Waters Boogie Band, the New York Brass Band, Oriental Jazz Band, Jack L, Cathy Davey, Rob Strong and the Riptide Movement.

Cork School of Music played host to Jazz Camps featuring free-of-charge workshops and masterclasses presented by many of the big names of the festival.

The Cork Jazz Festival first took place in 1978, after jazz buff Pearse Harvey suggested the idea to Jim Mountjoy, who was marketing manager of the Metropole Hotel at the time. Players Wills sponsored the event to the tune of £5,000.

The event was organised as a last-minute replacement for a cancelled bridge tournament.