CONGRATULATIONS TO scribbler Fergus Cronin, whose debut collection of short stories, Night Music, has attracted the sort of promotion and exposure usually only afforded to established writers. But then Cronin is no ordinary aspiring fiction writer. He is also the hubby of Arts Council head honcho Maureen Kennelly.
Cronin has not always been the arty type. He has been around the business block, having been involved with assorted entities in the more prosaic worlds of water purification and limestone manufacture and supply.
But Fergus has had plenty of experience dealing with artists of varying hues through one of his current business interests, the Lisa Richards talent agency, controlled by Richard and Lisa Cook, who are also behind the Kilkenny Cats Laughs festival. Cronin has been in situ here as a director since 2005 but is not a shareholder. (He does hold a small stake in Kilkenny-based CKR Broadcasting Ltd, the company behind KCLR 96FM.)
Richard Cook, also pops up in KCLR and in film and TV production outfit Peer Pressure Productions, where Fergus Cronin was in situ as a director from 2005 to 2018. (One Maureen Kennelly was also a director here at one stage, serving on the board from 2003 to 2005.)
Ranelagh-based Cronin and Kennelly were the directors of a project management PR and marketing business, Spool Communications, which was 100%-owned by the former. It was voluntarily wound up by the couple in 2021.
In more recent years, Cronin’s business interests have taken a back seat as he has sought to concentrate on fiction, completing a degree in creative writing at the Oscar Wilde Centre and getting stories published in the likes of the Irish Times and the Manchester Review.
He then landed a contract with a small Galway-based publisher, Doire Press, which must be delighted with the attention accorded to Night Music. The launch was no small-time affair for a debut novelist, with two separate bashes where the booze flowed and the great and the good packed in. First off was Galway, where Night Music was given a rousing send off during the Arts Council-funded Cúirt International Festival of Literature at a shindig in April in the Galway City Distillery, which was where the festival was based. The event was introduced by Paul Fahy, artistic director of the Galway International Arts Festival. (There was then a second launch back in Dublin in a packed Odeon Bar.)
Doire press landed a near 15% increase in ‘arts grant funding’ this year and a curious Goldhawk asked if Kennelly had excused herself from any discussions relating to the funding. The Arts Council said that its director had “declared a conflict of interest” at the meeting of June 22/23.
Not only has Fergus Cronin featured at high-profile events such as the International Literature Festival in Dublin and this week’s Listowel Writers’ Week, his debut collection has also attracted gushing reviews in the likes of the IT and the Sunday Independent.
In the IT, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne compared the “very talented” Cronin to John McGahern, while in the Sindo Anne Cunningham was bowled over, describing the stories as “Beckettian” and “sublime”.
There was a also a thumbs up in the Irish Examiner for the “insightful stories… full of humour and humanity” (Sue Leonard) and last week RTÉ got in on the promoting act, asking the 73-year-old new kid on the block to give his cultural recommendations under the ‘Something For The Weekend’ slot, in which Cronin included a plug for his old pals in Peer Pressure Productions.
It hasn’t taken Fergus too long to figure out how this publicity game works.