Honorary Conferrings Speeches Archive
- 08 Jun 2018
at Aula Maxima, UCC
OLLSCOIL na hÉIREANN
THE NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF IRELAND
TEXT OF THE INTRODUCTORY ADDRESS DELIVERED BY:
Professor JOHN O’HALLORAN, Deputy President and Registrar in University College Cork, on 8th June 2018, on the occasion of the conferring of the Degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa, on PHILIP KING
A sheansailear, a Uachtarain, a mhuintir na hOllscoile agus a dhaoine uaisle,
Chancellor, President, Deputy County Mayor, Honorary Graduates, Colleagues, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure and honour to introduce to you today Philip King, father, husband, brother, musician, film director, broadcaster, commentator and thought leader.
Philip, we recognise and honour you today as an outstanding contributor to Irish society, our diaspora and to the Arts, Science and Innovation. We salute and acknowledge you as a key proponent of cultural and creative practice in the Arts in Ireland for almost 40 years. Your artistic output has been phenomenal, and in all of your creative endeavours, you have won national and international acclaim and recognition. We wish to honour you today.
Philip was born in Cork, one of four, to his Roscommon father and Kerry mother. Soon after his father took up his post as a Garda in the Bridewell Garda station in Cork, He is accompanied today by his five daughters Naomi, Sarah & Molly, Ellen and Juno together with his wife Nuala O’Connor, a great friend, UCC Governor and TV Producer. Philip grew up in Cork and went to Glasheen National School, and was inspired by his auntie Bridie to pursue education! He soon began his love affair with Irish and music. At a very early age in primary school he spent a school term in the Gaeltacht, immersed in Irish and culture, in west Kerry. A place that would eventually become his home some decades later. Living under Mount Eagle, in what Máirtín Ó Cadhain refers to as the ‘Hare’s Corner’ or Cúinne an Ghiorria, which references the corner of a field left untouched by a farmer where the hare can nest and breed. In folklore the hare’s corner also represents a doorway for transformation and possibility: a space for nature to have its own ground so that the wilderness can have its way too.
I’ve heard Philip recall how his father inspired his love of music. On a number of occasions he has described how, when he was a young boy, his father returned home with ‘a box wrapped in brown paper’ that when opened revealed a radio, or more correctly a ‘wireless’. Philip vividly describes ‘the distinctive green light, the smell of the valves heating up’ and then the muffled sound until the knob was turned to reveal a radio station: sometimes a football or hurling match, but more often music. Philip describes how the ’wireless’ gave him a window into a new world full of music of every sort. At that young age, his father had opened his ears to ‘other voices’!
He continued at school and, like one of his siblings, came to UCC and read Arts between 1969 and 1972 (his other two siblings attending Mary Immaculate teacher training college). Philip quickly immersed himself in college life, seeking out fellow musicians and his great love of Irish. Connecting with great people like Seán Ó Riada and Liam Ó Muirthile (both now sadly deceased) playing music and studying. He was an enthusiastic person and in his college days was known as ‘Mr Great and Fantastic’, as he responded to all enquiries as to how he was as ‘great and fantastic’. He has not lost this energy, passion and belief in music, Irish and people to this day. Lucky for us!
Philip’s musical talents led him to become a founding member of the Irish folk rock band Scullion in the mid-1970s, where he held the roles of vocalist and harmonica player. Scullion play to this day, and are playing this Saturday, June 9th, in Séamus Ennis Arts Centre in Dublin. He has recorded many albums including Balance and Control (1980), White Side of Night (1983), Spin (1985) and Other Voices – Songs from a Room (2003) and has also won acclaim as a songwriter with his song I Am Stretched on Your Grave being covered in 1999 by Sinéad O'Connor.
In 1987, Philip set up the television production company Hummingbird Productions with Nuala O'Connor and Kieran Corrigan and began making highly acclaimed television programmes, exploring the roots and cross fertilisations of Irish music and profiling the work of performers from both the past and present. The landmark television series Bringing it all Back Home won an Emmy Award in the United State in 1991 and in 1993 Philip was nominated in the United States for a Grammy Award for his music documentary Rocky World about the Canadian musician Daniel Lanois. In 1998 Philip produced and directed Keeping Time, a film for BBC Television celebrating the poet Seamus Heaney and uilleann piper Liam O'Flynn. Other notable productions include: a television programme about violinist Nigel Kennedy and the Irish Chamber Orchestra; an Irish Film & Television Award winning production entitled John McGahern – A Life; and the documentary Thomas Moore – One Faithful Harp which was produced for RTÉ television. Philip has also directed the longstanding Sé Mo Laoch series for TG4 documenting and archiving the lives of Ireland's most celebrated traditional musicians.
The production in 2003 of Other Voices – Songs from a Room, a 13 part rock music series for RTÉ Television, filmed in The Church of St James in Dingle, County Kerry, broke new ground. Not only did it celebrate fresh and innovative Irish voices, it also served to highlight the potential for rural areas to be centres of cultural production and sites for creative industries. Now in its 16th series, Other Voices has emerged as Ireland's leading live music series focusing primarily on alternative music from Irish and international artists. It has captured remarkable performances from renowned artists including Amy Winehouse, The National, Elbow, Ellie Goulding, Glen Hansard, Damien Rice, Jarvis Cocker, Snowpatrol, Ryan Adams, Florence & The Machine, Marina & The Diamonds, Hozier, and many many more. Finding new talent is one of his many talents. Late last year I had the privilege of listening to a then unknown Norwegian artist, called Sigrid and her band play in St James with just 80 people present, and today she fills the airwaves. Philip and the team provide a platform and showcase for both old and new voices.
In 2006 Philip established the production company South Wind Blows with Nuala O'Connor and Tina Moran and in 2013 their documentary “Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came To Dingle” (directed by Maurice Linnane) was shortlisted in the Best Arts Documentary category for the prestigious Grierson Award. Philip continues to present the weekly radio show South Wind Blows from the RTÉ Studios perched on the Western tip of the Dingle Peninsula. The show, which has a loyal and faithful following, delivers an eclectic mix of music, much of it drawn from Philip’s personal archive of recordings collected during his long and rich musical career. He also tweets out regular poems and images of West Kerry from the edge.
Alongside his artistic work, Philip has played an instrumental role in generating and shaping debates about the Arts in Ireland. He was appointed by the then Minister for the Arts John O’Donoghue to the Special Committee on the Traditional Arts in December 2003 and he served on the Arts Council of Ireland for seven years. In his roles as commentator, advocate and advisor he has played a significant part in shaping national policy developments.
Uachtarán na hÉireann has called on Philip on more than one occasion – and as usual Philip did us proud!
In 2013, South Wind Blows produced Glaoch: The President’s Call, a showcase of Irish music, literature and culture in conjunction with Michael D. Higgins. The hour-long documentary, which was broadcast on St Patrick’s Day, included performances from Christy Moore, Glen Hansard, Roisin Ó, Lisa Hannigan, Martin Hayes, The Script and Imelda May as well as conversations with well-known figures such as Bono and the late Seamus Heaney. This programme was to be the prelude for An Ceiliúradh in 2014.
A true internationalist, Philip was chosen by the organisers of President Higgins’ State Visit to the UK to curate the wonderful Ceiliúradh concert in the Royal Albert Hall in 2014. The event, presented by Dermot O’Leary, celebrated the music, dance, literature, art and culture of both the UK and Ireland, with performances from Fiona Shaw, Joseph O’Connor, Olivia O’Leary, Glen Hansard, Imelda May, Paul Brady, Elvis Costello, The Band of The Irish Guards, The Band of The Irish Army and a choir drawn from London-Irish emigrant groups. Philip joined the stage at the end of the evening to loud acclaim. Philip describes the stage as “the place where I am truly myself”. Something special happened that night which Philip later described as “a dispersed Irishness that was pulled together by a remote bonding that is called music”.
In recent years Philip, Nuala O’Connor and Muireann Kelliher have launched a new initiative called Ireland’s Edge. Ireland’s Edge is part of the Other Voices festival held in Dingle each December. Ireland’s Edge brings together high-level influencers and thinkers from a range of sectors including members of the diaspora community, Foreign Direct Investment companies, artists, academics, commentators and policy makers. The environment is intellectually and culturally stimulating, provocative and centred on helping Ireland do better. Philip, Nuala and Muireann have created a unique setting and an event that provides opportunities to explore some of the big questions for Ireland. Philip and the team have created a place where conversations can be opened up and reviewed and interspersed with music performances and songs. One of the recent topics at this conference was STEAM. Philip has become a passionate advocate for STEAM – the fusion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) with the Arts. Philip believes that there is a world of opportunity waiting to be exploited in the intersection between the artistic and technological worlds – two worlds where Irish people, with their natural creativity and flair for innovation, can thrive and prosper and where this country can gain an edge on the world.
To quote Philip:
“Irish people are naturally imaginative, creative and innovative. Bringing STEM and the Arts together to create STEAM will offer Ireland a competitive advantage. Irish people are recognised around the world for our creativity and we need to build on that and the strong links we have to all those people around the world who have left to create something new which we can all be proud of”.
Philip, we at UCC are proud of what you have achieved. Like your father many decades ago who unwrapped a wireless to open up an new world for you, you have opened opportunities of new voices for us all, the voices from the edge, a nation that has found a new voice because of you - a voice where creativity, music and science intersect with a special blend of all that is Irish. I am very honoured to present you today for the award of Honorary Doctorate of Music
Praehonorabilis Cancellarie, totaque universitas!
Praesento vobis hunc meum filium, quem scio tam moribus quam doctrina habilem et idoneum esse qui admittatur, honoris causa, ad gradum Doctoratus in Musica, idque tibi fide mea testor ac spondeo totique Academiae.