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Honorary Graduate's Speech: Mr Tim Piggott-Smith, Doctor of Letters (DLitt)

Actor and Director Tim Piggott-Smith's career has encompassed both stage and screen. He featured in January's ITV's Bloody Sunday broadcast, now on worldwide cinema release. A BAFTA award winner (Best TV actor The Jewel in The Crown), he has acted in many films including Innocents, Clash of the Titans, Life Story (Best TV Film, BAFTA), Escape to Victory, The Remains of the Day, and Shekhar Kapur's The Four Feathers. He is a regular performer with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, and has appeared in the Westend play, The Iceman Cometh, and on Broadway alongside Kevin Spacey. His television credits include Kavanagh QC, The Vice, Dr Who, The Wilderness Years, North and South and The Chief. He received his honorary degree on Thursday, February 7 at a University of Leicester postgraduate degree congregation in De Montfort Hall, Leicester. The following is his response to the degree ceremony oration.

"Mr Chancellor, Mr Vice Chancellor, my Lord Mayor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.  I asked a very old friend of mine if he would come here today to witness this ceremony.  He spent five years earning a Doctor of Philosophy, and he said, "Iím not going to go all the way to Leicester to watch you being doctored!" 

"Iíd like to thank another very old University friend of mine, Ian Garthouse, for coming with me today. I donít know why I am so thrilled by this degree. It came out of the blue and Iíve been trying to analyse what is that has made me so excited. I think I have four reasons. 

"The first is that, as a young boy, I was first brought to the De Montfort Hall to hear Handelís Messiah. My mother was then singing in the choir - she used to sit up there. I came to the De Montfort hall many many times to see all sorts of wonderful classical music, so the place is important to me.  My mother and father are both still alive - my mother is 89 my father's nearly 92. They would be here today but my mum comes out of hospital today and my father's there to take care of her. 

"Somebody who is here is the History master who first put me into plays - and I think this is the second reason why I am happy.  Iíd like to apologise publicly to Ed Geraina for being such a dismal student of history, and Iíd like to thank him for forgiving me sufficiently to put me in to the plays. As Dr Boone told you, my first role at 'Wiggy Boys'' was that of the mother-in-law in The Caucasian Short Circle.  My principal memory is of drying stone-dead on the second night when the elastic holding my petticoat up burst! 

"The third reason that Iím thrilled to be here is when I received my letter asking me to come I was told that the other honorand was to be Dean Richards. I was first taken to Welford Road to see rugby in 1956. And Iíve had a lifelong love on the game and Dean Richards is one of my very great heros and the only rugby player to whom Iíve ever written a fan letter. I was once explaining the game of rugby to a lady who had very little understanding of it.  And she said, "How do you know where the ball is when they all get in those great rucks?  And I said, "You see that big bloke there with the blonde hair and his socks around his ankles? If you watch him the ball will not be very far away." Youíre a great hero of mine, Deano, and Iím thrilled to be here with you.  

The fourth reason is to do with my profession. I think England is embarrassingly largely speaking a rather philistine country and I think sometimes our achievements in the arts are in almost inverse proportion to the interest shown in us by the general public. It is surprising perhaps to you the theatre receives less in subsidy from the government than it gives back in VAT and I think thereís a deep distrust in actors that runs back to the Rogues and Vagabonds Act of the sixteenth century.  Actors could then be arrested as a rogue or a vagabond. The form that it takes these days is to dismiss actors as being 'lovies'. Well... I think one of the things Iím really pleased about this doctorate is I donít think they're going to call me Doctor Piggott-Smith but they might not call me 'lovey' quite so often!     

I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to accept this degree, and, while Iím here, Iíd like to congratulate all the graduands who have had to work really hard for your degree today. Thank you very much.

February 2002    

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Last updated: 28 October 2002 17:00
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