Image of the Liverpool Cathedral

David Charters

Oration

Presented by: Tom Murphy

Pro-Chancellor, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Granduands. I have great pleasure in presenting David Charters for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

Each year at graduation, the university’s highest honour – an Honorary Fellowship – is bestowed on a select band of individuals outside the University, in recognition of their outstanding achievement in a given field or profession, and who personally inspire others to ‘dream plan and achieve’ the defining ethos of John Moores University.

David Charters is one of the most respected and inspirational feature writers in this country and a major opinion former in Merseyside. His voice was among the most prominent as we navigated from a city in serious decline to the dynamic and exciting city of today. 

David, 67, was born in Birkenhead. His Father was a Doctor but David quickly found that his vocation lay not in medicine, but in the written word.  Much of his inspiration stems from simple observations of people that can be amusing, sad or profound but always gripping.

He has been a professional journalist on Merseyside for 50 years, starting as a cub reporter on the Birkenhead News. After that, he had a spell freelancing for national and regional publications, as well as TV and radio, before joining the Liverpool Daily Post, where he held several positions. Quickly establishing himself as a journalist with a flair for ferreting out unique aspects to a story. He went on to become one of the key writers in the Daily Post and Echo, covering all major events on Merseyside during the past 33 years, writing when required major features, supplements and periodicals.

He later became a freelance writer for many of the nation’s leading newspapers. His weekly column ran for 25 years until the Post ceased publication. Since then, he has written a Friday column in the Wirral edition of the Echo and is titled, affectionately, the Bard of Birkenhead.

David’s widely understanding of local culture and its embrace of all the emotions - joy, celebration, anger, sorrow and, of course, humour feature in his books, Liverpool: The World In One City and Great Liverpudlians; while his more whimsical observations on life were compiled into Life, Love and Washing Up.

Since retiring six years ago, David has expanded his writing with the play, A Dream Of Wilfred Owen, which has been performed twice in the Concert Room of St George's Hall, as well as other leading venues including a version for LJMU. It features David as the ghost of the Great War poet, recalling his life through known facts as well as dream sequences.

David won a competition judged by the great writer, Keith Waterhouse, who described his work as having ‘a lyrical style reminiscent of Dublin journalism in its literate prime.’

David has won all the awards open to the regional press, including: 

  • Merseyside journalist of the year
  • Twice Merseyside feature writer of the year
  • Three times Comic writer of the year
  • Sony Award for Journalist
  • British Nuclear Fuels North West Writer of the Year
  • British Telecom North West, Feature Writer of the Year
  • United Kingdom Press Gazette Columnist of the year

His work, like his name, charters all the major historical and political events over the past half-century, including: Hillsborough, James Bulger, the 100th anniversary of the Great War. 

Outstanding articles include:

  • The death of George Harrison
  • The anniversary of 9/11
  • The Liverpool riots 
  • The establishing of LJMU, tracking its sparkling progress and development through to the present day

His understanding of the history of Liverpool and the Wirral shapes his individual style. He has a genuine interest in people and the way they think and the issues that have shaped them.

He has the rare gift of finding the story within the story and his writing is often used as a source of reference by the national papers. David is a man of great wit with a unique point of view. Audiences at his talks and lectures are reduced to rolling in their seats and clutching their sides.

His unique take in life lead to regular invitations to appear on BBC Radio Merseyside, and many more news outlets, to offer his opinion on current events. David is a man of great moral character, a person of conspicuous merit who is outstanding in his field.

He is currently working on a presentation about the American Indian wars, called Ghosts in the American Dream

Fourteen years ago, David became a founder judge in the Liverpool Athenaeum competition, established to encourage young writers. 

David is a family man. His son, Cameron, who is a student of ancient history, and his wife Alison regularly inspire stories in his columns.

Finally, one of David’s most poignant pieces of writing appears on the Liverpool City Centre Hillsborough memorial.

This short poem encapsulates David’s unique writing gifts and ability to paint a picture with just a few words. A talent that is rooted in his deep understanding, his love of Liverpool and its people. Some of the words of the poem were written at the time of the disaster and later formed the basis of the poem, which I will now read: 

And so, as one, the hushed crowd turned the pages of the book that held the names of the dead.
And the sound that rose from them was like a great flapping of birds' wings.

Into the dark sky and beyond, it carried the memories of those who had gone – the teachers whose wisdom was lost, the parents who will never cradle children, the makers whose hands were stilled, the jokers whose laughter vanished, the singers whose songs are silence, the lovers whose love lasts forever.

Pro Chancellor, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Grandaunds. 

Few people have written about this city through its highs and lows with such inspiration humour and sensitivity. I present to you for admission to this University’s highest honour, an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University, David Charters.