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Central’s 2008 Graduation Ceremony

12 December 2008

Honorary Fellowships for Harold Pinter, Jo Brand and Penny Francis

On 10 December 2008, Central honoured three outstanding theatre practitioners at its annual graduation ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank, London. Over five hundred students received their degrees which were conferred by Sir Graeme Davies, Vice-Chancellor of the University of London.

A Honorary Fellowship went to Harold Pinter CH, CBE, an alumni and Central's new President, who was prevented at the last minute by illness from attending the ceremony. Michael Colgan, Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre, Dublin, and a close friend of Harold Pinter, spoke in his honour.


He called him the Picasso of literature and the true pathfinder of drama in the twentieth century, a man who has continually demonstrated extraordinary courage, a searing social conscience and the greatest integrity.

‘He has never been a fashionable writer,' added Colgan, ‘His plays have become fashionable but only when we have caught up with them.' In conclusion, he told the graduating students, ‘I am certain that your children and their children and their grandchildren will enjoy and be changed by the plays of Harold Pinter.'

Playwright Patrick Marber introduced Jo Brand. He recalled her days on the stand-up circuit when she appeared as the Sea Monster in front of an audience of twenty-five people and described how she had moved on to being three years away from being declared a national treasure.


He also praised her kindness and generosity of spirit. Jo Brand said she was delighted and astonished to be offered the Fellowship. ‘You have no idea how undistinguished my acting career was', she said, claiming that her performance as Wall in Midsummer Nights Dream at school had been described as wooden and she had failed an audition for a part based on herself.

The third Honorary Fellowship went to the puppetry pioneer Penny Francis. In her acceptance speech, Penny Francis praised the Central School where she teaches as the first drama college to recognise ‘the powerful and magnetic tool of the puppet.'

In his concluding remarks, Professor Gavin Henderson said that with the collapse of financial services, cultural production is becoming the biggest generator of national revenue. ‘If there is one sector that is going to hand us out of the depths of recession in the coming years, it is the world of arts and ideas.'


Photographs by Villeneuve George


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