Sharks Await


Breandan O Broin

It's mid-September, the hay is saved and Cork is bet (a Tipperary hurling prayer – replace with your own aphorism, if you prefer) and so it's time for the marauding Sharks to arrive for their annual award-feeding festival in the category-rich rewarding seas around the ever-beautiful coastal village of Kinsale at the gateway to West Cork.

“What will we land this year,” the delegates whisper and wonder hopefully? Will it be a haul of bronze handed out as bait to encourage increased effort? Perhaps a coveted silver or two will shine in the net among the Saturday night seafood at Actons? Is it too much to hope that this year of all years, a glittering gold – the biggest catch of all – might be hauled ashore and ferried back in triumph to Dublin, London, Barcelona, New York – like an ancient Roman Emperor returning with the spoils of victory.

But the delegates dream such dreams and share such thoughts only with their inner-selves as it is de rigueur for every creative on the planet to affect an air of couldn't-care-less nonchalance concerning the largesse and choice-making capacities of the jury who – depending on who you are and the outcome – either boast the wisdom of seven Solomons or are a bunch of past-their-sell-by ingratiates who couldn't spot an energising creative flash of brilliance even if it bit them in the digitals.

But what's all this about Glastonbury? Isn't that where ageing rock stars go to resurrect their flagging careers (bad backs permitting) by entertaining the Cath Kidson welly wearers of Middle England? Sharks don't go to Glastonbury – dolphins perhaps, piping their sweet tunes and hoping for a joyful tumble – but never Sharks. Sharks eat people, don't they? Is Sir John Hegarty who coined the phrase and is a long-standing supporter of Kinsale somehow sending a cloaked message – a verbal Exocet in a gilded glove – and hinting that Kinsale has perhaps become a bit too smug, self-satisfied and pleased with itself? (And dare we say it, middle-aged?)

Kinsale has always enjoyed a unique quality and reputation as a festival; a place where good work is rewarded and the nasty politics of agency globalisation get left behind at Cork Airport. The juries' work without interference, save for the guideline of honouring excellence and always approach their task with honesty and zeal. The entries get looked at and considered. A brave idea has a genuinely good chance of winning the recognition it deserves. The workshops are encouragingly well-attended and often inspiring, the jury chair is invariably a man or woman of international repute and delegates mingle in a cordial atmosphere of peer-to-peer support.

Back in the earlier days, when RTE used to transmit the entries on national television, an English delegate declared Kinsale to be the perfect festival as he could “view the entries from the comfort of his own hotel-room bed with coffee, croissants and champagne for company”. The Good Life more than the Glastonbury life in effect. So where did it all go right?

Kinsale has always suffered from what might be termed the ‘Irish syndrome' – a craving for the admiration and adulation of others. Didn't we organise the Queen's visit with grace and dignity? Wasn't Obama right to look so pleased with himself? (Thank God the Beast got stuck on a ramp inside the US Embassy and not on the Morehampton Road – think of the shame of it).

Isn't our creative work great all the same considering there are only 22 of us doing it – and with barely a bob to spend on production? We love to be loved. No real harm in that, but we need to cast a cool eye on things from time to time.

Emma Pueyo, creative director of the Poke agency in London, is one of the judges and she makes an interesting observation on the Sharks blog. Pueyo writes: “Good digital ideas are those who come from within the internet rather than those which

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