The Cork Community Print Shop Interview
2013 has been a year notable for some landmark examples of DIY entrepreneurship and community activity in music circles in Cork. The Kino reopened in June as an all-ages venue and just last month Cork Community Print Shop opened its doors in the former Lee Motorcycles premises at the end of Oliver Plunkett Street (think the back of Connolly Hall), in a joint effort with Art For Blind Records. We decided to drop in on Dany and Edel of Art For Blind for a look see and a chat about the venture.
Can you just describe where we are?
D: We’re in Cork Community Print Shop on Oliver Plunkett Street Lower. It’s the new home of our label Art For Blind alongside the print shop which is a screen printing studio, rehearsal room, general all-purpose space…
Rehearsal room as well?
D: It’s currently a screen printing studio but it is to be all the other things that we envisage as well.
How big is it here?
D: The bottom floor is about 2,200 sq. feet and the same above and then there’s an attic as well. But the attic is very…there’s lots of holes in it. So about 4,000 sq. feet at the moment.
So it’s just the ground floor that you’re using for the moment?
D: We’re using upstairs for storage and we’ll work on it. We need to improve access to it because we have a really old, rickety staircase. And the toilets are up there as well so in terms of (running) events and things here we have to work on getting those a bit more accessible.
And could you introduce yourselves?
D: I’m Dany, I’ve been running Art For Blind (AFB) for about 10 years now.
E: My name is Edel and I’ve been helping with AFB for the last few years. I look after the design and social media side of it.
D: And press.
Can you give me a little bit more of an idea of what you’re trying to establish here?
D: Well we’re trying to establish a collectively run space – an autonomous space really – where people can use the space, they can work in the space in exchange for getting something out of it, whether that is discounted printing, space to run a label like we are, doing the shop, or we’ve talked about a rehearsal space, people using that for their own band in exchange for maybe working in the print shop for an afternoon, something like that. The whole idea is based on the fact that it’s trying to make the kinds of things we do more sustainable and less reliant on your own pocket, or someone giving you a handout.
And how did this building come on your radar?
D: It came on our radar very quickly and very suddenly. It went from being an idea to happening in about three weeks. We were looking at a space on MacCurtain Street for nearly a year, you know the Tig Filí? We were looking at that for nearly a year. We eventually got around to all coming together and being in a place where we could actually start. So we made an offer on it, it was accepted, but we were messed about a little bit in terms of moving in. And then we were told we couldn’t get in until after Christmas. So we just had a little chat and we went and looked somewhere else. And we found this. And it was significantly cheaper but in a significantly worse state of repair.
A similar kind of building I suppose?
D: Yeah, it’s an old, historical, industrial building in the city centre which is really what we were looking for. A big thing for us is to repurpose something that’s disused and make it into something that people want to spend time in or produce things in.
E: Rhona, who is coming from the screen printing side of the print shop, I think her ideas go back nearly a year. She was coming up with her plans to open a space for herself and her ideas for Cork Community Print Shop. So she had those in motion and then it was around late summer that we all came together as the two wings, so to speak. It all happened quite quickly but the two parties, we seem to work well together, we seem to be on the same wavelength, and adapting to the spaces that we were finding. There were some differences between the two different spaces that we were looking at. But being able to walk off the street here (was a big advantage), and uncovering things like the brick wall which is right next to us, which has become a feature. It’s worked nicely and organically and quite naturally.
So what you offer at the moment, it’s a place that people can come to order things or walk in off the street and buy as well?
D: Yeah, we’re open from 11-7 every day, the doors are open for people to come in, to have a look around, play backgammon, buy some records. That’s been a big thing for us as well is to have the door open and for people to be able to come in, and for it to be a space that people can share and even then see what is possible in here. Someone might look in that corner and think they might want to open a café in there, and that’d be great. It’s not something that we want to do but we want to help accommodate something like that, things like that in general. So that’s the idea. And we’re open 7 days a week which is hard work…
That’s a big thing obviously because somebody can drop in anytime.
D: Yeah, exactly. There’ll always be somebody here.
Can you give me a bit more of the background to AFB? You were saying it’s been about 10 years running…
D: I say I’ve been running the label for 10 years…
E: Next year’s ten.
D: Right, this is the 10th year and it’s changed considerably in that time. I started the label just after putting on gigs when I was about 20 I guess. I’d been putting gigs on in my hometown. I didn’t play in a band or anything. To me it just seemed like the next logical step was to put a record out. So I chose somebody, a band that I knew to put a record out. I didn’t know anything about putting records out, other than I knew that Dischord had done it and it seemed to work out alright for them. So I kind of winged it, I put a record out and I started meeting people that had done the same thing, learned from my mistakes as I went along. It’s kind of gone up and down over the years depending on what (else) I’ve been doing, whether I’ve been studying or working, or working part time – for instance, if I’m working part time I get a lot more label stuff done. I want to do a lot more.
Since Edel came on board, its probably gone up in terms of its professionalism I’d say. It was a little bit more dishevelled before that, it’s a little bit more organised now, especially in terms of doing things like press releases, all that kind of more traditional stuff. Previously it would have been, ok we have the record out, let’s gig it, let’s trade it, all that kind of stuff. I used to do a lot more of taking my distro to gigs, following bands around with the distro and selling records that way, which was effective but also a lot more time-consuming and labour intensive than doing it the traditional way. So it’s got a bit more traditional over the years I think.
I remember in particular there was a September Girls 7”.
D: We did that in March I think. That was the third 7” September Girls put out in that series – they did one on a Scottish label (Soft Power) and an American label (Matinee) and then one with AFB and then signed to Fortuna Pop straightaway after! But that was great, they were one of the first bands, when I moved over, that I really liked when I saw them play in The Pav. I think I’d spoken to them before that, hadn’t I?
E: You met them in Dublin and then they played in Plugd. They played a really small show in Plugd. I think that was the first time they played in Cork. We’d heard of them and friends of ours had put them on in London so they’d popped up onto our radar. And through them we possibly got The #1’s, they’re kind of nearly like a package! We started just approaching bands and getting to gigs, making a few trips up to Dublin. We saw Wolfbait that way as well. So they’re the three (Irish bands) that we’ve done so far.
D: When we moved over (from the UK), it was important to do as many Irish releases as quickly as possible. It’s incredibly difficult selling UK Hardcore in Ireland! That was important to us. We started with the September Girls, then The #1’s – they’ve played loads of gigs together over the time – and then we did Wolfbait which kind of came about from meeting a lot of the people that are in that band, and then thinking I actually like that band too, I’m going to ask them about doing that. So we did that.
And you’re hooking up with The Altered Hours in the New Year.
D: We’re doing a Rory O’Brien tape first – that should be out in the next week or so – that’s been kind of quiet because it’s been so long to put together, but that should be out next week. And then The Altered Hours in February. That’s almost finished, we should be getting that finished for next week.
D: Yeah, that’s a 7”. The track ‘Dig Early’ and there’ll be a live B-side from somewhere in Cork.
Alright, looking forward to that. And the Christmas Market that you have coming up, tell me about that.
D: The Christmas Market was just an idea we had to try and get a few people who are doing other, similar kinds of things but might not have bricks and mortar, a place to sell their stuff, to all come down and make a bit of an event of it. And it’ll also be the last weekend that we’re open before Christmas. It’s kind of a little bit of a celebration, we’ll play some records, have some mulled cider.
So who’s going to be in the building that’s extra that weekend?
D: We’re going to have Hobo Convention selling records. We’re going to have Rob Foley who does Sponge Design. And a few more we’re waiting to hear back from. Hopefully five or six other stalls in addition to our stuff.
E: And some people are sending us stuff who can’t make it, which will supplement what we’ve got here. Deci who does Box Emissions is going to send us some of their stuff. And it’s great to have the likes of Justin from Hobo Convention, he came and played at our launch night, DJ’ed for us, we’ve done record fairs with him in the past, gone to their events, and we’ve both been up in Mother Jones Flea Market before. And it adds something extra because we are quite niche. We’ve got a heck of a lot of UK Hardcore, Hardcore in general really, so to bring in Soul and Hip Hop and areas that he’s interested in…And we had another mutual friend approach us as well who sells Techno Records, so we have a batch of his stuff already now in the shop. And that’s just come on stream from being open.
D: That’s something that Cork’s really given to me as a label person. My horizons have been broadened somewhat, probably just because it’s a smaller place. A lot of people do different things. They might make two distinct styles of music – one on one night, another on another night – so that’s broadened our horizons a little bit. Especially the Hobo Convention guys. They started up pretty much the same time we moved to Cork so we’ve been doing a lot of stuff with them over the last couple of years. It’s nice to bring them in on this as well.
And you’d be happy to hear from anyone else as well?
D: Definitely. We’re trying to keep it specific to print or music, whether that’s photography, art prints, or music. Something a little bit different. We don’t want to be another crochet market! Not that there’s anything wrong with crochet.
Crochet’s good. And in terms of the upstairs, have you got an idea of how long it might take to have that usable?
D: It kind of depends on money, firstly. We have to see money coming in from the things we’re doing on the bottom floor before we can spend any more. I think in the New Year, February or March time, we’re hoping to have that up and running. The rehearsal room we’re hoping to have up and running by the end of the year, January at the latest. We’re hoping that’s going to be a big financial thing for us, to let that space out, to help us expand upstairs. The room upstairs is gorgeous, it’s the best room in the building, just because it’s not been used as much. It’ll look really nice when it’s finished, it’ll be great for exhibitions and stuff.
Cork Community Print Shop Christmas Market takes place Dec 21+22, 11am-5pm