Sunderland University to honour Eddie Izzard, Charlie Spedding and Alastair Stewart

STAND-UP star Eddie Izzard, County Durham Olympian Charlie Spedding and newsreader Alastair Stewart are to be honoured by a North East university.

Co Durham Olympian Charlie Spedding, newsreader Alastair Stewart and comedian Eddie Izzard

STAND-UP star Eddie Izzard, County Durham Olympian Charlie Spedding and newsreader Alastair Stewart are to be honoured by a North East university.

Also being recognised at Sunderland University’s annual degree ceremonies are two leading figures from the world of art: Norman Cornish, the last surviving artist of the Pitman Academy, and Ray Spencer MBE, executive director of the Customs House in South Shields.

Eddie Izzard, who is to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters, is one of the most successful comedians of his generation and has won two Emmy Awards during his career.

Since his first stage appearance in London’s West End in 1993, Eddie has repeatedly sold out shows across the world as well as breaking box office records in Britain and the United States.

In August 2009 he ran 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief, raising £1.85m.

Charlie Spedding is the English record holder for the marathon, a winner of the London Marathon, and the last British athlete to win a medal in the event in the Olympic Games.

He was born in Ferryhill, County Durham, and followed his father Joe into the pharmacy industry, graduating from the forerunner of the University of Sunderland, Sunderland Polytechnic, in 1974.

In the early 1980s, Charlie briefly quit his career as a pharmacist to focus on his lifelong dream of becoming a professional athlete.

In 1984 he won the London Marathon and later that year won a bronze medal in the Los Angeles Olympics.

He remains the English record holder for the marathon, with a time of 2 hours, 8 minutes and 33 seconds. Charlie will receive an Honorary Fellowship from the university. Alastair Stewart OBE, who started his career working for Southern Television in 1976 before joining News at Ten in 1989, is to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Arts.

He covered the Gulf War in the 1990s and has presented many of ITN’s most memorable landmark programmes, including the weddings of the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of York.

Norman Cornish will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Arts in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the arts and in particular, in support of the mining community.

Norman began working in the mines in 1933 aged only 14. When just a year older, he joined the famous Pitman’s Academy and began painting and drawing the world around him, eventually becoming a celebrated artist.

His vivid paintings of ordinary life feature both realism and a nostalgic look at a world that no longer exists outside of his canvases.

To this day, aged 92, he continues to chronicle the everyday lives of the people of Spennymoor in County Durham.

Ray Spencer joined The Custom House in 2000 when the institution was on the verge of bankruptcy.

He was tasked with saving South Shields’ community theatre, cinema and art gallery.

Ray has turned around the fortunes of The Customs House with audiences flooding into the venue and is to receive an Honorary Fellowship.

University vice-chancellor Professor Peter Fidler said: “Our honoraries have all made highly significant contributions within their fields and will inspire our graduates as they celebrate their academic success and embark on their careers.

“We look forward to welcoming them and are proud to pay tribute to them.”

The week-long degree ceremonies start on Monday.

His vivid paintings of ordinary life feature both realism and a nostalgic look at a world that no longer exists

 

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer