The filmmaker who directed the last four films in the Harry Potter series, as well as numerous feature and short films and television programmes, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Edge Hill University.

David Yates, considered to be one of Britain’s most celebrated directors, is originally from Rainhill, and started making short films with a Super 8mm camera given to him by his mother after being inspired by Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.

He continued writing, directing and producing his own films through his undergraduate years, in Essex and Washington DC. He also studied at the National Film and Television school.

He spoke to graduands from the Department of English, History and Creative Writing in the ceremony at the University on Friday (20 July 2018).

He said: “I love beginnings – the first chapter of a book, the first chord of a song, the first page of a script – because you’re never quite sure where it’s going to go. It’s always full of promise and possibilities and, as I look at you lot, I can see a lot of promise and possibilities.

“I feel a kindred connection with you as when I was growing up, just down the road, I wasn’t supposed to go to university no one in my family went to university.

“I was the very first one who got that ticket, who was lucky enough to do quite well in my A-levels and ended up in university, and in many ways that was the point at which, as many of you guys will realise, you can create your own story. You don’t have to have a story imposed upon you.

“You can create that story for your future starting now.”

Early in his career, Yates directed various short films and became a prolific television director. His credits include the six-part political thriller State of Play (2003), for which he won the Directors Guild of Great Britain Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement; the adult two-part documentary drama Sex Traffic (2004); and the Emmy Award-winning TV film The Girl in the Café.

He rose to prominence by directing the final four films in the Harry Potter series, starting with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in 2006, followed by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Rowling’s final book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, presented in two parts in 2010 and 2011.

In 2011 David was honored for his work on the Harry Potter series with BAFTA’s John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing, an honour more recently bestowed upon Kathryn Bigelow and Mike Leigh. In the same year, and along with cast and crew members of all eight films, the Harry Potter series was awarded the Michael Balcon Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema.

Yates’s following projects included The Legend of Tarzan (2016) and the Fantastic Beasts films, the second in the series Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is set to be released in cinemas this November.

He said: “When I came out of film school there was a process of trying to raise money to make projects, and for a number of years I really struggled, it was tough. Those experiences, in a way help you build certain muscles. They make you strong if you use them in the right ways, and you will use them as you walk out of the doors of Edge Hill and into your life that awaits you.”