Image of the gates of the Liverpool Cathedral

Richard Stilgoe OBE

Oration

Presented by: Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Richard Stilgoe for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.  

Richard Stilgoe has been one of the most popular entertainers in Britain for more than 4 decades - as a songwriter, lyricist, entertainer and broadcaster.  

In recent years he has become increasingly involved in charity work, notably founding the Orpheus Trust in Surrey, a performing arts centre for young disabled people.  

Richard Henry Simpson Stilgoe was born in 1943 in Camberley, Surrey but was brought up in Liverpool where he developed an interest in music from a young age - he used to sing Elvis Presley songs, accompanied by his gran on the piano. He was educated at Liverpool College, Monkton Combe School in Somerset and at Clare College Cambridge as a Choral Exhibitioner where he was a member of the Cambridge University Footlights.  

Most Liverpudlians who were alive in the 1960s claim they saw the Beatles play at the Cavern Club, but Richard actually performed there alongside the Fab Four as lead singer of a group called 'Tony Snow and the Blizzards'. Several spells singing his songs in clubs and pubs led to appearances on the Today programme in the 1960's and a wider audience on the BBC Television teatime programme Nationwide and then on That's Life! with Esther Rantzen where he wrote satirical songs about commonplace domestic misfortunes. 

One biography notes his "ability to write a song from almost any source material and at prodigious speed as part of his cabaret act, which includes such diverse gems as singing the instructions from a Swedish payphone".

He has also written and presented numerous BBC radio programmes, including Hamburger Weekend, Used Notes, Stilgoe's Around, Maestro and Richard Stilgoe's Traffic Jam Show, on Radio 4. Not surprisingly, given his skill at wordplay, Richard is a great fan of anagrams and has appeared over two hundred times on Countdown. He once proudly announced on TV that an anagram of his name is Giscard O'Hitler. Another anagram is rhetorical digs, which you could say he's always been good at.  

Notwithstanding his comic talents, Richard is a serious musician, writing some of the lyrics for Cats and all of the lyrics for Starlight Express. He worked with Charles Hart on the lyrics to The Phantom of the Opera and has written two musicals for schools, Bodywork and Brilliant the Dinosaur. He has appeared on the Royal Variety Performance, presented the Schools Proms for over 20 years, toured extensively as a solo artist, and with Peter Skellern for a period of 17 years.  

He lists numerous recreations in his Who's Who entry, including sailing, architecture, building and demolition - he has built more than one house and owns his own mechanical digger. 

He has a great interest in cricket and is a member of the MCC, President of Surrey CCC, and he is a trustee and former President of the Lord's Taverners. 

He is also very much a family man.

He has been involved with charitable causes for many years. For example: In 1980 he wrote and released two Christmas themed songs which he sang with a Junior School Choir to raise money for Leicestershire Arts and Music Association. He is the Founder and Director of the Orpheus Trust, established in 1998 in his former family home in Godstone, Surrey, offering performing arts experiences to young people with disabilities. 

He also started the Stilgoe Family Concerts at the Royal Festival Hall with the aim of introducing children to the excitement of beautiful music, including regular commissions of new music, played by talented young musicians in a full concert hall. 

He was President of Surrey Care Trust from 1986-2000 He has been a trustee of the National Foundation for Youth Music since 1999 and was appointed Chairman last year. 

And he gave away all his royalties for his work as lyricist on Starlight Express to a village in India - for several years these donations were exceeding £500 a day.

Richard's achievements have been widely recognised: Two Tony nominations, Three Monte Carlo Radio Prizes, New York Radio Festival Gold Award, The Prix Italia, Two Honorary Doctorates Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Honorary Associate of the Royal Academy of Music and an OBE for services to music. 

In 1996 he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Surrey In 1998, he was appointed High Sheriff of Surrey  Richard Stilgoe has demonstrated throughout his remarkable career not only his rare talent as a musician and entertainer but also his extraordinary benificence in tirelessly supporting those less fortunate than himself with his time and with financial assistance.    

He has deservedly won many honours and accolades for his work, and we are pleased to add our acknowledgement of his outstanding achievments.  

Thus I have great pleasure in presenting Richard Stilgoe, this most distinguished son of our city, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.