Guinness bosses have axed Arthur’s Day — but insist the move has nothing to do with widespread criticism of the event.
Officials for drink’s maker Diageo confirmed the change yesterday, saying the September celebration introduced in 2009 will not be repeated this autumn.
Under plans announced by Diageo, the celebration will be replaced by a new €1m-funded Guinness Amplify initiative to give new musicians their first chance of fame. It will be part of Guinness’s “music programme”.
The project will run from July until early next year, offering young talented singers and bands advice from expert panels, free studio hours and their chance to break into the music industry — while also providing Guinness with a key publicity tool.
Marketing manager Lisa Fitzsimons confirmed the new event “effectively replaces Arthur’s Day, there’s no way of getting around that”.
But she insisted the change is not related to the backlash from doctors and politicians to the celebration last year.
“We just needed to refresh our music programme. Arthur’s Day was only meant to happen for one year, but such was the success of it we held it for five.
“I think the whole alcohol and society debate really heated up last year. But the dissenting voices were open in saying they were using Arthur’s Day to highlight concerns because it was so high-profile.
“Those issues deserve a serious debate, but there was no report of bad incidents [during Arthur’s Day last year], the ambulances and hospitals said it was just a regular Thursday night,” she said.
Arthur’s Day 2013 became the subject of a major debate over Ireland’s attitude to alcohol. Singer Christy Moore also penned a song critical of the celebration.
However, the PR project — set up to mark the 250th anniversary of the creation of Guinness — remained popular with the public.
Alcohol Action Ireland said the axing of Arthur’s Day is in the public’s best interests. However, it warned the new music project’s aim is still focussed solely on selling alcohol to a young audience.
“Guinness Amplify is merely another sales promotion dressed up as altruism, despite its claims about supporting emerging musicians in Ireland.
“This is about selling alcohol, not music,” said the campaign group’s chief executive, Suzanne Costello.