Presented by: Jonathan Falkingham
Kevin Fearon and Gillian Miller with LJMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Weatherill
Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have great pleasure in presenting Gillian Miller, for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.
The Chief Executive of Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre, Gill is honoured today for her outstanding contribution to the regeneration of popular arts and culture in Liverpool.
LJMU is proud of our cultural partnership with the Royal Court, well-known for its mix of comedies, musicals and new plays. Our drama, creative writing and other performing arts students enjoy access to the expertise and resources available. Students can participate in work placements, attend workshops and gain valuable feedback from the theatres’ artistic department.
Gill Miller has been instrumental in setting up this partnership which also involves career development sessions and practical insights into the business beyond performances on stage.
Gill was born in Dunfermline, Scotland and grew up in Edinburgh, she attended Napier University where she graduated with a degree in Applied Chemistry. Her first experience of Liverpool was supporting a band called The Teardrop Explodes at the Empire Theatre in 1983. Shortly after this she moved to Liverpool to be part of the music scene in the city and began working at the Everyman Youth Theatre in 1986.
She now has over 30 years of fundraising and business development experience gained by working with a wide range of Liverpool’s cultural organisations including Tate Liverpool, Bluecoat, Liverpool Biennial, Unity Theatre, Rawhide Comedy Club, Liverpool Athenaeum and the Royal Court Theatre.
Gill set up The Comedy Trust which runs Liverpool’s annual comedy festival in 2002 in response to Liverpool’s bid for European Capital of Culture. The Comedy Trust continues to thrive and the festival is now in its 15th consecutive year. Gillian is Chair of the Trustees overseeing the ground breaking work the Trust has developed in the area of comedy, humour and, increasingly, the positive impact of comedy on health and well-being.
Gill formed the Royal Court Trust in 2008 to enable funds to be raised to save the art deco, grade ll listed Royal Court Theatre in the heart of Liverpool. She has led the £10m scheme which has significantly transformed the building into a thriving new venue for future generations. £7.2m of this scheme has been delivered to date and the work will be completed in September 2018 which will mark the 80th birthday of the current theatre building.
The Trust also established the Community, Education and Outreach projects that are now an integral part of the Royal Court. These include a free to access, no audition Youth Theatre, a free to access Community Choir and Terriers, an anti-gang and gun-crime play that celebrates its tenth year in 2018.
Earlier this year the Arts Council elevated the theatre to National Portfolio Organisation status which will see Liverpool’s Royal Court receive funding for the first time in over forty years.
A whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm, coupled with an innate skill for influencing the people around her, Gill has been instrumental in transforming not just the fate and fortunes of the theatre, the complete renewal of the old Penny Farthing pub into a new Courtyard bar but also the surrounding environment. As Chair of the St George’s Quarter, she leads a diverse group who act as a catalyst for promoting animating and regenerating this historic area in the heart of Liverpool.
Thus Pro-Chancellor, for this sustained, outstanding achievement in the regeneration of popular arts and culture in Liverpool, it is with great personal pleasure that I present Gillian Miller for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.
Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have great pleasure in presenting Kevin Fearon, for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.
Director and Executive Producer of the Royal Court Theatre, Kevin is honoured today for his outstanding contribution to the regeneration of popular arts and culture in Liverpool.
Born in Orrell Park, Liverpool, Kevin attended The Liverpool Institute High School for Boys then achieved a degree in Economics and Politics at Manchester Polytechnic. From 1969 to 1979 Kevin, along with his two brothers Keith and Malcolm, worked with their dad, Joe, on a milk round. The round was off Rice Lane from Evered Avenue to Queens Drive. At this time, Joe was also working as a stage-hand at the Royal Court Theatre.
In 1976 Kevin started in theatre as a stage-hand at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool aged 15. His first paid job was Jack & The Beanstalk starring Gerry Marsden, Mollie Sugden and Jimmy Jewel.
He moved to Manchester to study and became a member of the Stage Crew at Manchester Palace Theatre in 1982. 1984 saw a move to London where he was a Stage Technician then Technical Manager at the Shaw Theatre in London.
The Shaw was managed by Camden Council until 1984 when the Council was rate-capped and the theatre was closed. With Simon Thomsett, the Chief Electrician, Kevin offered to rent the theatre from the Council and they ran it commercially as Joint Chief Executives.
From 1991-93 Kevin was a Producer and Director for Prometheus Theatre Company. He produced two seasons of Greek Theatre including Antigone, The Wasps, Medea and Women In Power. He also directed Women In Power.
1993 saw Kevin try his hand at standup comedy. He took a course in London, worked the try-out circuit for 4 months and managed to get into the semi-finals of So You Think You’re Funny. Turned out he wasn’t.
Moving back to Liverpool in 1993 Kevin became the General Manager, Administrative Director and Executive Producer at the Everyman Theatre. In his time there he reopened the theatre, started Rawhide Comedy Club and brought back the Rock and Roll pantos. He also established “Playing Away”, larger scale shows which were too big for the Everyman.
In 1998 he left the Everyman, taking Rawhide Comedy Club with him. Rawhide ran in venues all over the city for the next 15 years and is about to return this Christmas in the Royal Court’s new basement venue. In that time Rawhide became the biggest independent comedy venue in the UK in venues such as Baby Blue, Life Café, Central Hall, CUC and the Royal Court Theatre. During this time he also independently produced Night Collar, Slappers and Slapheads at the Royal Court Theatre and re-established the Liverpool Comedy Festival in 2002. The Festival is still going strong today.
Kevin took over Liverpool’s Royal Court in 2005, becoming Executive Producer. He has established the Royal Court as Liverpool’s largest and busiest producing theatre and the UK’s only full-time producing venue to operate without public subsidy.
Producing shows 12 months of the year since 2007, The Royal Court has attracted more than a million customers in this time. The theatre is unashamedly Liverpudlian with sets being built in the city, rehearsals taking place here and all staff being either born or based in Liverpool. 95% of money generated by the venue is spent in the region. Kevin has overseen a programme which attracts audiences that other theatres see as “non-attenders”.
Last year he wrote the Royal Court’s Christmas show, Scouse Of The Rising Sun, and he has just finished this year’s Festive offering, The Scouse Nativity.
Thus Pro-Chancellor, for this sustained, outstanding achievement in the regeneration of popular arts and culture in Liverpool, it is with great pleasure that I present Kevin Fearon for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.