Fears for future of Cork Jazz Festival as programmer’s contract is not renewed

Title sponsor Diageo made decision, says festival chair

Concern has been expressed for the future of the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival following the revelation that the long-time programmer and festival director will not have his contract renewed.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Fiona Collins, chairperson of the festival committee, confirmed Jack McGouran is to step aside from his role. However, she stressed that the decision to appoint a new festival director will be made by Diageo, who she says will make an announcement in the coming days.

Ms Collins said: “This is a positive change that means further investment into the festival,” and added anything that retained the festival and made it a positive experience for people was “a wonderful thing”.

The revelation was made in an email sent on Wednesday to a number of festival stakeholders and signed by Mr McGouran and Deirdre Smith, his partner in Dublin public relations firm Quest PR.


The abrupt disclosure surprised many as no official announcement has been made by the festival committee or Diageo.

Mr McGouran was not available for comment on Friday.

’Magical jazz journey’

In the email, he thanked his colleagues for “what has been a magical jazz journey over the years”, and stated all bookings for the festival will be handled by music agency AMA.

Ms Collins contradicted this but declined to say more about the relationship between her committee, Mr McGouran and the festival’s sponsor.

The announcement also surprised members of Ireland’s jazz community, with concerns expressed for the future direction of the event.

Tony Sheehan, artistic director of the Triskel Arts Centre, one of the festival's headline venues, said he was "shocked at this turn of events". He added it cast doubt over future jazz programming at the Triskel, as AMA have traditionally booked rock and pop bands and have not previously been involved in high-profile jazz promotion.


The popular festival has been hailed in the past as one of Europe's premier jazz festivals. Previous acts have included jazz legends such as Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as important modernists such as Joe Zawinul and Dave Holland. However latterly, the festival has been criticised for placing too much emphasis on non-jazz acts. Recent headliners have included rockabilly songstress Imelda May, electro-pop pioneer Gary Numan and punk legends The Boomtown Rats.

Cormac Larkin

Cormac Larkin

Cormac Larkin, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a musician, writer and director