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Dame Patricia Routledge, DBE
Dame Patricia Routledge, DBE
Two of the UK’s ‘national treasures’, Dame Patricia Routledge, DBE and Joanna Lumley, OBE; will be joining celebrated conductor Stephen Barlow; and the founding head of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie, to receive honorary doctorates this Friday, March 15.

The ceremonies will take place at the City’s Cathedral, where 791 students will be congratulated by the University’s Chancellor, Dr Gyles Brandreth, who will be presiding.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler, said: “Our graduation ceremonies are always a particularly special and memorable occasion at the University and it is a pleasure to share the sense of achievement, celebration and hope with our graduands and their families. I am equally delighted to be able to present honorary degrees to four outstanding individuals, in recognition of their national and international achievements, and to welcome them to be a part of the University of Chester.”

10.15 am: Dame Patricia Routledge, DBE will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt,) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to theatre and television.

One of the UK’s most beloved personalities, actress and singer Dame Patricia Routledge has had a distinguished and prolific career with major roles spanning across the stage, television, radio, and films. The recipient of both a Tony and an Olivier Award, Dame Patricia was appointed DBE in the 2017 New Year Honours list for her services to theatre and charity. Her diverse career has taken her from working with the Royal Shakespeare Company to appearances on ITV’s Coronation Street.

Born in Birkenhead, Merseyside, Dame Patricia was educated at Birkenhead High School (now Birkenhead High School Academy) before beginning her studies at the University of Liverpool. A classically trained singer, Dame Patricia has played numerous leading roles on the stage especially within musical theatre, and her work has included collaborations with the likes of acclaimed musician Leonard Bernstein.

Dame Patricia is probably best known to audiences for her roles on television which have included appearances in Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, A Lady of Letters, Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, and Marjorie and Men. She is known especially for her many varied comic roles, that have included appearances in Steptoe and Son, Victoria Wood as Seen on TV, and she was twice nominated for a BAFTA for her role as the eternally elitist Hyacinth Bucket in the BBC series Keeping up Appearances. This role made her a recognisable figure the world over and it remains BBC Worldwide’s most exported television programme of all-time. Film credits include To Sir, with Love (1967,) appearing with Sidney Poitier, and Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968), which she starred in alongside Jerry Lewis.

Dame Patricia is involved in many charitable organisations across the country, and her diverse list of patronages includes St Richard's Hospice, in Worcester, the Sussex Snowdrop Trust, and the Guild of Musicians and Singers. Dame Patricia also serves as an ambassador to the organisations Kidney Research UK and the Royal Voluntary Service, along with supporting a wide variety of other groups.

Dame Patricia said: “The University of my home county of Cheshire does me a great honour in inviting me to accept the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters and it gives me great pleasure to acquiesce.”

Duncan Selbie, the founding Chief Executive of Public Health England, will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Health (DrPH,) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to public health.

Prior to 2013, he was Chief Executive of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals, the regional teaching hospital for the south east of England. From 2003 to 2007, he was the Director General of Programmes and Performance for the NHS and subsequently its first Director General of Commissioning. Prior to this, he was Chief Executive of South East London Strategic Health Authority and before that Chief Executive of the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust. He joined the NHS in January 1980.

Duncan Selbie said: “I want to thank the University for this recognition. It is a great honour which reflects on the whole of Public Health England, an organisation that works round the clock to protect and improve the nation’s health and that I am privileged to lead.”

2.30pm: On Red Nose Day 2019, the University is delighted that one of the charity’s well-known supporters, Joanna Lumley, OBE, will be joining the institution at the Cathedral, to receive an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt,) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the arts.

Joanna Lumley was born in Kashmir.  She spent three years as a photographic model, finally becoming a house model for the late Jean Muir, before becoming an actress. Her early films included Some Girls Do (1968), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), two Pink Panther films: The Trail of the Pink Panther and The Curse of the Pink Panther (both 1982), The Satanic Rights of Dracula (1973) and Shirley Valentine (1988).  More recent films include James and the Giant Peach; Innocent LiesFunny Bones; a television film of Cold Comfort Farm (all 1994); Prince Valiant (1996); Sweeney Todd (1997); Parting Shots (1997); Whispers (1998); Mad Cows (1998); Maybe Baby (1999); The Cat's Meow (2000); Ella Enchanted (2002); Ugly Americans; Magic Roundabout (voice); Corpse Bride (voice); and The Audition. More recently, she has appeared in The Wolf of Wall Street and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.

Joanna played Purdey in 24 episodes of The New Avengers and recorded 34 episodes of Sapphire and Steel - both programmes are constantly being transmitted world-wide. Her experiences of living alone on a desert island were filmed for a BBC Special, Girl Friday. Joanna is probably best known on television for her hugely popular role of Patsy in the award winning series Absolutely Fabulous for the BBC. In 1996, she travelled to Bhutan to film a journey made by her grandparents In The Kingdom Of The Thunder Dragon; other television work includes A Rather English Marriage (for which she was nominated for a BAFTA as Best Actress in a Drama) and, in 2000, found a new role as co-producer, for the series The Cazalet Chronicles for the BBC.

She has written five books, has an extensive theatre career and was awarded an OBE in the 1995 New Year Honours. Among the many charities she supports are The Prince’s Trust, SightSavers, The Born Free Foundation, Thames Reach Bondway, Ataxia and, famously, The Gurkha Welfare Trust.

Joanna is also the presenter of several highly respected travelogue documentaries. In 2018 and 2019 she presented the BAFTA awards in London.

Joanna Lumley said: “Not having been to university, for me to receive this singular honour is completely thrilling and humbling. The splendid seat of learning that is the University of Chester has opened its brainy and generous arms to me, and I rush into its welcoming embrace with much gratitude and joy.”  

During the same ceremony, her husband, the conductor, composer and pianist, Stephen Barlow, MA (Cantab), FRCO, FGSM will receive an honorary Doctor of Music (DMus,) in recognition for his outstanding contribution to the arts.

Until recently Artistic Director of the Buxton Festival‚ a position he held from 2011 to 2018, Stephen Barlow’s recent and current projects include Porgy and Bess, La Boheme, Romeo et Juliette Grange Park Opera‚ La Cenerentola (Staatsoper‚ Stuttgart)‚ Medeé‚ Koanga (Wexford Festival); Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Beijing)‚ Macbeth‚ Leonore‚ Lucia di Lammermoor‚ Louise‚ Jacobin‚ La Princesse Jaune‚ La Colombe‚ Intermezzo‚ The Barber of Baghdad (Buxton Festival); Die Walküre‚ La Fanciulla del West‚ Capriccio‚ Rusalka‚ Tristan und Isolde‚ Pique Dame‚ Dialogues des Carmélites‚ Peter Grimes‚ Falstaff‚ Norma (Grange Park Opera)‚ Otello (Birmingham Opera Company); The Rape of Lucretia‚ Owen Wingrave (Irish Youth Opera) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Guildhall School of Music).                     

Stephen was a boy chorister at Canterbury Cathedral‚ and studied at King’s School‚ Canterbury; Trinity College‚ Cambridge (as Organ Scholar) and Guildhall School of Music and Drama‚ under Vilem Tausky.                      

He co-founded and was Music Director of Opera 80‚ and meanwhile was resident conductor at English National Opera‚ also working with Scottish Opera‚ Dublin Grand Opera‚ Opera North and Royal Opera House (TurandotDie Zauberflöte). He was Artistic Director of Opera Northern Ireland from 1996 to 1999. Other UK highlights include The Rake’s Progress (Glyndebourne)‚ The Cunning Little Vixen (ENO)‚ La Bohème (Grange Park)‚ Idomeneo‚ The Barber of Seville‚ Fidelio and Madama Butterfly (Belfast)‚ Albert Herring‚ Falstaff‚ The Marriage of Figaro and Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Garsington)‚ Madam Butterfly (Opera North) and Sweeney Todd with Bryn Terfel (Royal Festival Hall).

Engagements abroad include The Rake’s Progress‚ Madam Butterfly‚ Tosca (Vancouver Opera)‚ Capriccio (San Francisco Opera)‚ Faust‚ Nabucco‚ La Cenerentola‚ Turandot (Florida Grand Opera)‚  Die Zauberflöte‚ Carmen‚ Duke Bluebeard’s Castle‚ Romeo et Juliette (Australia)‚ Madama Butterfly‚ Don Giovanni‚ Il Trovatore (Auckland)‚ Elektra‚ Faust (Seville)‚ The Cunning Little Vixen (Berlin)‚ The Rake’s Progress (Nationale Reisopera)‚ Capriccio‚ I Capuletti e I Montecchi (Sicily)‚ Rigoletto (Tirana)  and Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Riga).    

In addition to his operatic work‚ he has conducted most of the major UK orchestras‚ and concert appearances have taken him all over the world. In 1997 he was appointed Music Director of the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra. Recordings include Joseph James’ Requiem with Sumi Jo and his own composition Rainbow Bear (with his wife‚ Joanna Lumley‚ as narrator,) and has conducted the premières of his opera King in Canterbury Cathedral and his Clarinet Concerto with Emma Johnson and the Ulster Orchestra. As a pianist‚ he has recorded the complete songs of Butterworth‚ Delius and Quilter.   

Stephen Barlow said: “I’m absolutely delighted to receive this very special recognition, and am privileged to accept such an honour and to join the extended family of the University of Chester.”

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