Presented by Sarah Maclennan
Honourable Chancellor, I have the pleasure in presenting Alex Brooker for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.
Alex Brooker is a role model and inspiration for people of all ages and backgrounds, but particularly for those with disabilities. He has attained huge success as a journalist and is renowned as a writer and television presenter.
He was born with hand and arm disabilities and without a bone in his lower right leg. His right foot was amputated when he was 13 months old. This allowed him to wear a prosthetic and gain greater mobility.
Born in May 1984 in Croydon, Alex attended a mainstream infant and primary school, where despite it being a challenge he felt included in everything by his teachers.
In 2003, Alex joined Liverpool John Moores University as a journalism student. During his studies, Alex worked as a part time junior sports writer for the Liverpool Echo.
Head of Journalism, Jackie Newton, described Alex at LJMU as : “indomitable, fun and immensely popular.
“We were privileged to have an early glimpse of the qualities that would win over huge sections of the discerning public. There’s no façade with Alex, he is wonderfully true to himself and to the many people he represents.”
Alex has maintained links with LJMU and provides many positive opportunities for current students.
Sharing insights into his television career, he said to our students: “My degree has enabled me to do everything that I’ve done so far. The skills I learnt here are a big part of what I do now. It’s the stuff you don’t think about that’s engrained in you by the time you leave.”
Alex graduated in 2006 and went on to work for the Liverpool Echo before becoming a sports journalist at the Press Association.
In 2011, Alex appeared on screen for Channel 4, reporting in ‘That Paralympic Show’. He went on to be an athletics reporter in 2011, and then a football reporter in 2012 at the BT Paralympic World Cup.
Alex auditioned for Channel 4’s Half Million Quid Talent Search – whose aim was to find new disabled talent for the 2012 Paralympics. He was successful and featured in the Paralympics Opening Ceremony watched by 11 million people. His first ever experience on live national TV was interviewing David Cameron – no pressure, then, given that only eleven million people were watching.
Alex combined his work at the Press Association with Channel 4 until finally leaving when he was confirmed for the Channel’s line-up for the Paralympic coverage.
Alex was joint chief writer on the official guide to the 2012 Paralympics, which included comprehensive venue and sports guides, facts and figures, features on key athletes to look out for in London and a glimpse back at the most memorable moments from past games.
He is probably now best known as co-presenter on the award-winning TV show ‘The Last Leg’. Originally a one-off series for the 2012 London Paralympics, the show attracted a growing audience of loyal fans and has been aired ever since. The show features an irreverent take on politics, news and sport. Alex has been praised as ‘a model of how to talk normally to a politician – and make them talk normally back’.
He joined Davina McCall as co-host on the celebrity ski- jumping show ‘The Jump’ and has guested on panel shows such as Celebrity Juice, League of Their Own, 8 out of 10 Cats, and Would I Lie To You? where his quick wit and comic timing shines.
Alex presented his own documentary for Channel 4, entitled ‘Alex Brooker: My Perfect Body’ – examining the world of male body image and exploring how men really feel about their figures.
In 2016, in the run-up to the Paralympics in Rio, Alex presented the daytime Superhumans Show for Channel 4. He was joined by stars of Paralympic sport, showcasing their talents.
Last year Alex returned to his journalistic roots, hosting A People’s History of the NHS documentary series for BBC Four. Talking about life before the NHS Alex said, ‘The idea of paying 5 shillings just to see a doctor before you even had any treatment or medicine, and the fact that people were scared to be ill, made me think how lucky we are."
Away from his broadcasting work, in which he has dismantled barriers to disabled talent, he is an ambassador of the disability charity Scope UK, appearing in national campaigns and raising funds. He has provided mentoring for young disabled people through an employment service, sharing valuable advice. He has inspired millions with his positive message saying:
“Don’t be afraid of your disability. That’s who you are. It’s who I am. My hands are part of me – I can’t go into an interview with a pair of mittens on hoping they don’t notice! Be confident. You’ve got something that no one else has, I promise you.”
Hugely positive about his time at LJMU and in the city, sadly he wasn’t converted to our way of thinking on football, remaining an avid Arsenal fan.
The announcement of Alex’s Fellowship has been notable for the wide range of people who have not only welcomed it but been influenced by his example, his journey, his humour, his openness and his achievements. We are deeply proud of his connections with LJMU and the city he calls home.
Alex says: ‘I genuinely still think of Liverpool as my home and that it’s the greatest city in the world. I try to go back every chance I get. If I had my way I’d probably still live there!’
In recognition of his personal commitment and dedication to redefining the presence of disability, it is with great pleasure that I present Alex Brooker for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.