Honourable Chancellor, they say that you never forget an inspirational teacher and the two people we honour today have made it their business to make sure that whole generations of schoolchildren have the chance to be inspired through the recreation of a movement they themselves experienced in their own schooldays – the National Saturday Club network.
John and Frances Sorrell are a truly inspirational duo. Separately they are individuals of distinction with hundreds of professional and personal accolades. Quite rightly they have been recognised for their work with Queen’s honours and we are really proud that Sir John and Lady Sorrell are here today to receive Fellowships from our University in recognition of their exceptional achievements and to mark what we hope will be a long and fruitful partnership with LJMU.
Unusually, we recognise ‘The Sorrells’ this morning because together they are something of a tour de force. Designers by profession, the creative agency they formed in 1976 became the largest and most successful consultancy in Europe with clients including British Airways, the Body Shop and the Royal Mail. In 1999, they created what has proved to be one of their most enduring and transformational projects – the Sorrell Foundation - with the objective of inspiring creativity in young people and improving lives with good design.
Frances and John are driven by a passion for creating opportunity for young people and have used their considerable skills and talent to create meaningful programmes to engage schoolchildren with the aim of expanding horizons and encouraging aspiration.
They both hail from modest backgrounds and found their path through the Saturday morning classes that were part of a huge social mobility movement between the late 1940s and 1970s when art schools across the country were encouraged by the Government to open their doors on a Saturday to give young teenagers a taste of what it would be like to study art after leaving School. The movement was a huge launchpad for many of today’s household names in art and design.
By drawing upon their own experience and through their Foundation, John and Frances initiated a new Saturday Club movement and the model is now being applied to different subject and industry sectors but remains true to its initial aim and focus of encouraging creativity in schoolchildren – to light the spark in future generations.
And whilst the Sorrell Foundation and their work is rooted in creating opportunities for those that may lack the chance to try something different, to widening access and opening doors for those from less advantaged backgrounds, it is also a highly practical and economically driven need. The creative industry is one of the UKs fastest growing sectors, worth over £92 billion a year and growing at twice the rate of the economy. It is a serious, wealth-generating sector requiring a workforce of millions and if we are to retain our creative edge as a country, we need our young people to lead us into the future.
Here in Liverpool, LJMU started Saturday Clubs last Autumn and, run by academics from our Screen School and our School of Art and Design, they have taken schoolchildren to museums and galleries, created plays and artwork and even given them classes in stand-up comedy. The Saturday Club movement isn’t a prescriptive curriculum, it is designed to tap into the creative spirit in children and it is also designed to be fun. If I may I want to just share some of the feedback from our first cohort:
What are you proudest of?
I am proud to have met lovely people and have interesting discussions.
I have gained more confidence.
That I can let my imagination run free.
What skills have you learned?
Don’t be scared to write what I think.
I have learned new ways of writing and took more interest in museums.
What has been your favourite activity?
All of it!
What will you miss about the classes?
I will miss the opportunity to share my writing with other writers.
Friends, fun times, basically everything.
Would you sign up to a Saturday Club again?
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Double heck yes.
At LJMU we celebrate citizenship, the role we all play as individuals in society and how we can make an impact. I think we are in the presence of two people who are the very essence of progressive, socially engaged citizens and so it is with great pleasure that I present Sir John and Lady Frances Sorrell for admission to our highest honour, of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University.