John Creedon: ‘Those who beat me at school? I forgive them’

Graham Clifford spends a day with the Cork radio presenter with a global audience

It’s just after 5pm in Paramaribo and John Creedon’s radio show is blaring out across the Capital of Suriname. An exile has taken to twitter to send a message across the waves to say the sound of home, 7,000 kilometres away, is coming through loud and clear to the tip of South America.

The tunes dance out the door of the RTÉ Cork studios onto Fr Matthew Quay, skip along the river where they meet the estuary and flow out to the world.

From his studio by the Lee, with a mixing desk at one end and a piano at the other, the man affectionately known as “Creedo” has been connecting the globe each weekday night, between 8 and 10, for the past nine-years.

Since moving to the evening segment of the RTÉ Radio 1 schedule Creedon has tripled the listenership figures for this slot, and a fiercely strong and loyal listenership base has developed.

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“I am at my grannies and I don’t get nervous or scared no more. I’m amongst friends, decent folk. I’m in my Den, my bedsit,” explains Creedon as he takes his seat for another show.

He continues: “The way I see it is that we’re all in this together. Music is powerful. Quite often it’s healing balm and at this time of the evening people are able to really listen. A listener on the road recently described the show as a lighthouse, a beacon twinkling away in the dark”

Earlier in the day, in his back garden on Cork’s northside, a blackcap nips between branches.

“Look, see him there, behind the bird table. Beautiful,” says John mesmerised with the bird’s dexterity and poise.

“I’m not generally an early riser, but every day is different. Radio is my constant companion. I like to potter in the morning, eat my porridge and look out at the birds. I could watch them for hours if only time allowed,” he tells me in the kitchen of the home he shares with his partner Mairead.

The shopkeeper’s son, one of 12, was born close-by and in the bosom of his native city he feels secure and proud. But he is anything but parochial.

He tells me: “Sometimes people in the trade seem to think you’re ‘big in Cork’ . . . because I’m physically based here. But to me that makes no sense. Like artists contact me and say things like ‘we’re doing a nationwide tour and we’re playing the Opera House in Cork on May 5th, you might give it a mention,’ – but why would I mention that concert and not a gig taking place in Donegal? I mean, I have a constituency there too – or a gig in the Olympia? In truth, we don’t do an events diary anyway.”

Creedon continues: "The thing is I can do my show from Dublin and sometimes I do. It's not 'John Creedon from our Cork Studios' and I don't play that up. I'm an Irish man as well as a Cork man. For me that's really important."

Reputation

Outside the Donnybrook bubble though he's ever busy thanks to a run of successful television series with RTÉ and through his work on TG4. Creedon has developed a reputation for, perhaps unknowingly, combining humility with a self-confident swagger and familiarity with innovation.

Some will say a clip around the ear never hurt anyone . . . well it did - it hurt me

“I don’t take praise too seriously, it comes before a fall and all of that. But, of course, I’m delighted when a show goes well. It helps with confidence and I didn’t always have that.”

We talk about love, forgiveness and the strength that the latter brings.

“If you don’t love everybody, I believe you don’t love anybody. Love is not selective, if it’s not universal love then its merely preference.”

And he continues: “Like all those who would have hurt me along the way or beaten me as a boy in school – of course I forgive them – that’s who they were then. By my 30s I came to understand and forgive them. I’m only talking for myself here. Some will say a clip around the ear never hurt anyone . . . well it did . . . it hurt me, most definitely, it did me harm and affected my confidence. It’s not that you condone what they did, but as a wise man once said ‘Forgive ‘em, for they know not what they do’. We have all acted out of unconsciousness along the way, but as I see it, to err is human and to forgive is divine.”

The ups and downs of life have informed John Creedon’s road map. But GPS dictates his path on his many successful TV series. On the day I visit word comes through another series has been commissioned and, understandably, Creedo is buzzing.

“It was one of my own ideas where I travel along the old main roads which have been replaced by motorways. Roads have stories and I can’t wait to get cracking on that one.”

Schedule

His schedule is somewhat hectic. Almost 100 bed-nights a year spent in hotels on the road but the father and grandfather loves what he does.

As the clock nears eight, Creedon grabs his toothbrush and toothpaste and disappears into a men’s room to add a shine to the fiacla. It’s a nightly ritual.

Down the line Fergal in Dublin confirms the news feeds, from base and Casla in Connemara, are good to go and by the time the signature music begins the tweets, emails and texts start flooding in.

From Germany, Belgium, Sydney, the US, Bahrain and Kent station in Cork from where a fella sends a selfie with Gloria Hunniford.  Even the artist Ron Sexsmith in Canada gets in touch.

Creedon rubs his hands together, the red on-air light illuminates and the playlist he’s loosely produced during the day is added to, tweaked and changed as the show evolves.

“Okay Maestro a big opening please,” demands Creedon at the top of the show as ‘Eloise’ by the Damned builds in the background.

“Its Monday night and we’re just going to cruise away and leave the cares of the day behind us,” he tells his growing band of followers.

And over two hours, peppered with tales and tonics, he sows together a patchwork musical quilt which he carefully places around those listening.

“I’ve the jukebox on shuffle tonight,” he tells them – and that’s just how they like it.