POSTHUMOUS AWARD 2014 – MR. KEVIN SANQUEST
Kevin Sanquest was involved in the arts, theatre, music, media and business life of Cork for more than seven decades. Kevin started out in music, as the first manager of local rock legend Rory Gallagher and his band, Taste. Later he joined Spotlight magazine with John Coughlan, then very much the bible of the music industry in Ireland. Kevin’s varied career also led him to establish in Cork, and manage McConnell’s, which was one of Ireland’s top advertising agencies and after that he returned to the media and marketing sector and was one of the founding directors of Cork Business News in 1999 and RSVP magazine in 2006 and continued to be a shareholder of the national title. He created the Cork Business Person of the Year Awards as a means of recognising and honouring Cork business people in their home town and this awards programme continues successfully today. Many, however, will associate Kevin with the theatre, first as an acclaimed set designer and later as a director and producer. He twice led Cork groups to national wins of the John Player Tops of the Town. In recent years, he and a great team of other dedicated people including his theatre loving friend Charlotte O’ Byrne helped raise €250,000 for Cork Cancer Research through the Opera House fundraisers “Cork on Show” spectaculars.
In 2007, Kevin was a co-founder and artist of Ireland’s first Portrait Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery of Ireland. He personally completed 400 portraits of well-known and not so well-known Cork people to honour Cork’s past and present legacy and also had developing plans that would see the collection of portraits increase to 3,250 for all 32 counties on the island of Ireland. From this, Kevin and his co-founder, Michael Mulcahy, created the InheritanceFoundation to promote the project, in association with Cork Civic Trust. The Cork Collection of Portraits is at Fota House and open to the public and was launched in the presence of many ambassadors, diplomatic representatives and honorary consuls from around the world in 2010. Kevin insisted that the collection should honour the many ‘Cork characters’ who graced the streets of Cork, from Klondyke, to Bernie Murphy, Kathy Barry and others as well as honouring people from all walks of life and especially the unsung heroes of Cork, whom many people didn’t know and whom he felt the next generation of Corkonians would never know unless we recorded them and wrote a biography about their lives. This portrait collection is a major tourist attraction for Fota House and Cork as well as having major educational benefits for future generations. In 2012, he published ‘The Book of Remembrance’ with over 100 portraits from the Inheritance Collection. It was a book that Kevin was immensely proud of and it was launched in Fota House with 18 Ambassadors attending. Kevin received a Cork Person of the Month award for his work in 2010 from the awards founder Manus O’ Callaghan.
Over recent years Kevin has received much acclaim for his paintings of Cork city scenes and many people at home and overseas were collectors of his work. Queen Elizabeth II has one of his paintings in Buckingham Palace and other world collections also have pieces of his work. He held his first solo exhibition in January 2012 in Cork Vision Centre which was entitled ‘Creative Juices’ and opened by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD. His paintings had a dynamic texture and energy in a painting style that is instantly recognisable. He was influenced by designers, architects and painters such as Robert Ballagh, David Hockney and Anthony Robert Klitz (1917-2000) and he was also inspired by printing techniques, in particular silk screen printing. Perhaps the most significant influence in encouraging Kevin’s interest in the aesthetic was his father, the late Frank Sanquest (1912-2007), a well known Cork artist and also resident set and scene designer at the Cork Opera House until it burnt down in 1955. At the age of 5, Kevin was introduced to observing the painting of different scenes from Austria with the Sound of Music to Japan with the Mikado. Unconsciously all the theatrics became a part of him over time and greatly influenced him in his approach to his work in general and to ‘Creative Juices’ in particular.
He started his artistic career as a lecturer at the Crawford College of Art and one of his novel and brave ideas was to purchase the 1601 Bar and Restaurant in Kinsale to give art students a place to exhibit their work. It also became one of the most popular bar/restaurants in Kinsale. Some will remember his days as a club owner in Cork and Kinsale and the stories are legendary of times of great fun and enjoyment from the various clubs that he owned.
Kevin had a big warm personality and was indeed Cork’s unpretentious renaissance man of the arts and was to the forefront of popular culture and popular art forms for the region’s benefit over those seven decades. His passion and his love of all things Cork and his great mantra that ‘the show must go on’ remains with us. His love of Rosa, Martha, his family and his friends whom he valued dearly gave Kevin the light that each day required. Tonight, in recognition of Kevin’s commitment to the arts, theatre, music, media and business life of Cork and for his great love of all things Cork over those seven decades, we present this award posthumously to Kevin in honour of a life that gave as much back as it took, and a legacy that will remain with us for an eternity. We commend and honour his life and that legacy to the Spirit of Cork Lifetime Achievement Board that will be placed in the foyer of the Imperial Hotel from tonight and for all time.
I welcome Roz Crowley, Kevin’s sister who will accept the award on behalf of Martha, Rosa and the Sanquest family.