Frank Cottrell Boyce receives honorary award

From the story Graduations: Summer 2013

Honorary recipient Frank Cottrell Boyce opens the Arts Centre.

Honorary recipient Frank Cottrell Boyce opens the Arts Centre.

Writer and creator of the Olympic opening ceremony Frank Cottrell Boyce today received an honorary doctorate from Edge Hill University.

The British screenwriter, novelist and occasional actor, also known for his children’s fiction, was acknowledged for his outstanding contribution to British culture.

Frank’s honorary award, which was given in recognition of his collaborations with the University and his contributions to children’s literature, film and TV, was conferred in a ceremony on the Ormskirk campus on 16th July.

He said: “I feel really bad because these students have worked so hard to get their degrees and I’m getting mine for free. Seriously though, it has been fantastic, it’s not something I expected at all because it’s not the kind of award you would expect to get. It’s been great to meet the students, especially those in film because they are the future and will be around long after I’m gone!”

While on campus, Frank also officially opened the University’s Arts Centre, a £2m refurbishment of University’s theatres and Performing Arts Department to enhance the creative and cultural outputs of the institution. New features include a bistro, outdoor terrace, and a mezzanine floor that provides a new entrance into the theatre. Land outside the building has been transformed into an impressive amphitheatre with tiered areas of seating, new paths, lawns and lighting.

As he unveiled the plaque, Frank said: “Spaces are just as important as the skills and friendships you build while in education, especially in the creative industries where much good work comes from networking and firming up friendships. We can learn from our peers as well as our teachers and this facility is the perfect place to do this.”

Frank was born in Liverpool in 1959 and studied English at Oxford University, before moving back to his home city to begin his creative career. In the early 1990s, he wrote for Brookside and Coronation Street. His move into films began in 1995 with the original screenplay for Butterfly Kiss. He has since become one of the leading and most respected screenwriters of his generation with credits including award-winning movies such as Hilary and Jackie, Revengers Tragedy, Millions, and Grow Your Own with Edge Hill’s media lecturer Carl Hunter. Directors such as Michael Winterbottom, Julien Temple and Anand Tucker have all benefited from Frank’s screenplays.

In recent years, he has excelled as a children’s author, winning two major British awards. His first novel, Millions, scooped the annual Carnegie Medal for best children’s book in 2004, and The Unforgotten Coat was awarded the 2012 Guardian Prize.

However, it is his work with director Danny Boyle on the highly praised Opening Ceremony for the 2012 Olympics which introduced Frank’s work to a host of new admirers. An estimated global audience of 900 million people watched this event, which drew on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Humphrey Jennings’s Pandaemonium and the UK’s NHS for its inspiration.

Describing what it was like to work on a project of this scale, he said: “In the year leading up to the ceremony, we must have received the worst press ever, with comments saying it would be ‘dreadful’ and a ‘global embarrassment’. But we weren’t afraid because of past experiences – my best advice is never to be afraid of failure. Just look at the way things turned out.”

Offering final words of advice to students hoping to make it in the creative industries, he said: “Don’t be scared to ask ridiculous questions. When putting together the Olympic Opening Ceremony we never thought the Queen would be willing to jump out of a helicopter for the ceremony but she was well up for it. Also, remember that friendship and loyalty count for a lot, you need to keep hold of them. Make sure you read a lot – it helps you to break free from the prison of the present.

“Just remember, we can never know what’s coming up in the future but if you’re happy, good and decent that will help you progress in life.”