Cork International Film Festival Director and CEO Fiona Clark, and Cork Jazz Festival Founder Jim Mountjoy, have been named Cork Persons’ of the Month for August. This award marks the contributions Fiona and Jim have made to Cork’s most successful and longest running festivals, The Cork Jazz Festival and the Cork International Film Festival.
Founded in 1956, Cork International Film Festival (CIFF) is a local, national and international celebration of cinema, running annually in November each year in Cork. Fiona Clark began her tenure as CEO in 2016, under which the festival has expanded to much acclaim. The festival boasts a world-class programme, featuring the latest and greatest of both Irish and international titles presented in Cork over the extended 11 day festival, as well as year-round screenings and events, in venues across Cork City and County. Fiona has made sure that the festival continually offers new and diverse programmes for younger audiences too, encouraging their involvement in the Cork International Film Festival year-round.
As Ireland’s first and largest film festival prepares to mark its 65th anniversary, Fiona’s work over the last four years has seen the festival go from strength to strength. The festival showcases films outside of mainstream cinema. The platform CIFF provides has become hugely popular with filmmakers, with the festival welcoming over 4,000 submissions, three times more than all other Irish film festivals combined.
The programme features an array of films, 90% of which will only be shown in Munster during the festival. This includes 190 film premieres, having previously shown films such as the 2019 Oscar® and BAFTA winner ‘The Favourite’. Three award winners in Cork have been eligible for the Oscars®, adding to the festival’s prestige. In 2017, CIFF was listed as one of the Top 20 festivals to visit in Europe, alongside the film festivals which take place in Cannes, Venice and Berlin. Fiona’s dedication to delivering a world-class programme resulted in festival visitor numbers increasing dramatically each year, positioning Cork as a centre for cultural excellence, whilst simultaneously promoting Cork film makers.
Jim Mountjoy, Cork Jazz Festival Founder and Festival Director (1978 – 1987), established one of Cork’s most anticipated yearly events, taking place annually over the October bank holiday weekend. Jim knew starting out that he wanted to target the niche jazz market as a way to fill rooms in the Metropole Hotel, where he was Marketing Manager at the time. The Metropole Hotel invested substantially to get the Cork Jazz Festival off the ground. Following a meeting with Niall O’Flynn, Sponsorship Manager for John Player & Co, John Player became the lead sponsor. Guinness subsequently became festival sponsors in 1983.
Jim worked hard to build awareness of the festival. Donal Crosbie, former Director of The Cork Examiner and avid jazz pianist, was appointed as the first Chairman of the festival. This gave Jim the opportunity to promote the jazz festival through his local newspaper. Jim was the only person who travelled to promote the festival, travelling all over Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France and Germany. He went to Toronto and twenty-seven states in the USA, giving press conferences in New York and San Francisco.
Jim did radio interviews in Ireland and England, and TV interviews in Ireland and New York. He had a weekly slot for two years in WEXM Salem, Boston. In order to promote the festival further, Jim attended the New Orleans and Sacramento Jazz Festivals. Jim suggested a ‘Pub Trail’ to Guinness which was introduced to further develop interest in the festival. Jim also organised a ‘Jazz Boat’ from Swansea and a ‘Jazz Train’ from Dublin.
It has been estimated that over one million fans visited Cork for the Jazz Festival, with a spend of over €250 million in the Cork economy, with local musicians, hotels, guest houses, bars restaurants, and taxi services benefiting greatly. Jim’s work laid the foundation for one of Cork’s most loved festivals, where fans have enjoyed performances by noted jazz musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, George Shearing, Mel Torme, Wynton Marsalis, Buddy Rich, Oscar Peterson, Ronnie Scott, Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, Cleo Laine, Dave Brubeck, Sonny Rollins, Stephane Grappelli and hundreds more top world names.
Speaking on her success, Cork International Film Festival CEO Fiona Clark said, “Being a part of our International Film Festival is hugely rewarding. A lot of hard work goes into the festival each year, but it’s the people of Cork that make the Film Festival so special.”
At the awards presentation Cork Jazz Festival Founder Jim Mountjoy said, “It is an honour to be part of a Cork tradition that has added so much to the city’s rich cultural heritage. Every year the festival goes from strength to strength, and I am proud to have played a part in its foundation.”
Awards organiser Manus O’Callaghan said, “Despite Covid-19 interruptions this year, these festivals continue to be Cork’s premier events. The Cork International Film Festival’s 65th Birthday and the Cork Jazz Festival’s 42nd Birthday should be celebrated by all Corkonians everywhere.”Fiona Clark and Jim Mountjoy’s names will now go forward for possible selection as Cork Persons’ of the Year. Sponsors of the awards scheme are the Irish Examiner/The Echo; RTE; Southern; Lexus Cork; AM O’Sullivan PR; Cork Crystal; Tony O’Connell Photography; CAVS; Musgrave MarketPlace.