Just a couple of weeks after the closure of the Kino cinema it’s more bad news for all things good in Cork.  Plugd, the city’s only remaining independent record store, community hub, and general drop-in centre for music addicts of all sorts is closing down in its current location after Christmas.

Plugd Records Cork on Culture Night 2009 (Photo by Barry Walsh)

Run by Jim and Albert, two extremely dedicated, knowledgeable and affable individuals, Plugd does not provide for its patrons only a place to buy music unavailable in the mainstream shops but an invaluable resource for information, events promotion, community building, and a space for local artists and groups to sell their records and develop their craft.

In a post announcing the closure on the People’s Republic of Cork forum last week, owner Jim suggests that “…it has become increasingly obvious over the last while that things are not working out in our current situation…The reasons are straight forward enough – business is down, like most others at the moment – and overheads are staying up”.  Although there is some hope Plugd will reopen in a new location, the store will soon cease to exist in 4A Washington Street where it has traded for eight years.  As the heartfelt comments from customers and Corkonians past and present testify, the absence of Plugd will leave an undeniable dent in people’s cultural and emotional experience of the city.

I think that this closure obliquely hits on recurring themes on this blog.  As the recent budget exemplified, the priority of the Government has been to invest in keeping the property sector artificially inflated and ensuring that banks, corporations, and high earners aren’t scared away from these shores, at the expense of everyone outside of these vested interests.  To put it another way, it’s business as usual for the apparatus of the state.

Brian Lenihan has suggested that NAMA is meant to free-up banking capital in order to offer loans to small enterprises, but if land prices and therefore commercial rents are kept inordinately high many of these businesses are precluded from making a profit anyway.  Moreover, the freeing up of domestic capital was never the aim of NAMA.  In the meantime, Cork loses another highly valuable cultural resource.  The myopic focus on boosting the commercial property market has invariably pushed up commercial rates, to the extent that it is mostly the larger chains that can afford the rents in city centre locations.  Thus, the perpetuation of a bland urban monoscape of shopping centres, franchised restaurants, and cafés.  Places like Plugd may disappear in the midst of this more noticeable transformation of the urban streetscape, but in the prophetic words of the folk singer Elizabeth Cotten:

You’re gonna miss the songs I play
You’re gonna miss me every day
Friends I know you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.

Cian O’ Callaghan

The Irish Times reports that footfall in the big shopping centres such as Blanchardstown is holding up, but that spend is markedly down. The average value of retail transactions in the third quarter is €46, down from €67 in the same period last year. It is likely that this is geographically skewed, with the large, established indoor centres acting as sites of leisure and window shopping, with smaller retail centres and those along the border suffering disproportionately.  It also reports that people are now saving 12% of their income up from 2.3 per cent in 2007; that 422,500 people are claiming jobseekers’ benefit and assistance in Ireland in October, and that April 2009 to April 2010 net migration will be approximately 40,000.

This story in the same newspaper might also be of interest –Ireland less alluring for Intel 20 years on – what Ireland still has is competitive corporate tax and skilled labour, but then so do other countries so what else do we do to attract and keep FDI.

Rob Kitchin