It’s a suitable time to consider the departure of significant public figures. Sometimes it hits home a little more personally when it involves those who are, in many respects, ordinary folk. Just people that you know.
The sad news reached us this day last week of the death of Ian Stephenson after an illness. His passing reinforced the sense that Cork is now losing characters that were quietly ingrained in the fabric of the overall scene.
Last year it was DJ Fork. The year before that it was Neil Corcoran.
Ian was an inveterate music lover and vinyl junkie. They say when an old person dies, a library burns down and with Ian’s passing we have lost not just a music library but someone deeply connected to a variety of communities in both West Cork, where he first fetched up, and Cork City, encompassing the arts and socially engaged projects from Cork Folklore Project, Traveller Visibility, and Cork Community Art Link.
To the general public he was known as Doc Fiasco, and he adored the 7” vinyl record. His music tastes were broad and he could play extensive and impeccably selected sets of soul, reggae, ska, jazz, blues, funk and punk. I recall how surprised and amused I was to encounter him on one occasion triumphantly proclaiming his acquisition of a copy of M’s 1979 one-hit wonder ‘Pop Muzik’, a song that deftly balances irony and sincerity.
But Ian was never less than sincere. And it often brought a smile to my face to picture him having to move out of his flat on Wellington Road because the weight of his record collection was causing the ceiling to sag.
He would regularly bring a smile to music lovers faces with his sets at Munster Soul Nights; warming up for acts as diverse as Asian Dub Foundation, Ashley Beedle, The Buzzcocks and The Beat; as part of Stevie G’s Vinyl Love events; and most recently, the Vinyl Brunch on weekends at the River Club in the River Lee hotel.
It was through college radio that I got to know Ian. His long-running afternoon radio show Cornerstone was very special, not just to him but to listeners also. And he had a loyal listenership who obviously adored Ian as a person but also enjoyed his knowledge, passion and meticulous preparation. This show was important to him not just because of the musical outlet it provided but also because it gave him the opportunity to advertise and promote events close to his heart and give shout outs to people, all conveyed in a gentle and reverential hushed burr.
So the occasional technical difficulty, say a mysterious humming sound emerging from the deck, would severely test even his usually sunny outlook because he cared so deeply about this single hour. But he usually accomplished his task of self-operating a mixing desk, microphone and single record deck with seamless ease.
I never knew what age Ian was but he had a very young soul, which made him appear younger than he may have been. I remember how elated he was to realise about four years ago that he was to be a father of twins. His acquisitions of rare mint vinyl had nothing on it. Condolences to his friends and family.
Ian may have left us but his Dr Fiasco Cornerstone shows are preserved on Mixcloud and Podomatic, and they are timeless.