Alecky Blythe, Theatre Studies Alumna, receives Honorary Degree at Warwick Winter Graduation
Thank you so much Professor for presenting me with this fantastic award. I’d like to extend my thanks to the University and the Theatre studies department, and to Professor Nadine Holdsworth in particular, who nominated me but sadly is unable to attend today due to her poor health. I wish her the very best for her recovery and hope she is back in the department soon.
News of the doctorate, over a year ago now, provided me with a much needed boost. You may think that once you’ve made a hit show that’s then turned into a movie with the likes of Olivia Colman and Tom Hardy, it will be plain sailing all the way- I wish it was as simple as that!
Knowing I was to receive such an honour helped me enormously through the creative struggles I was facing and renewed my belief in my own ability. So thank you Warwick- this has already been put to very good use and I’m sure it will continue to do so when I hit the next unavoidable brick wall.
In what is shaping up to be a momentous time for women who are finding their voices like never before, I couldn’t be prouder to be receiving it.
It’s wonderful to be able to come back after all this time and say thank you to my tutors, some of whom I believe are still here. Special mentions to David Thomas who was my Head of Department, Margaret Shewring who actually interviewed me and offered me a place, Frances Rifkin who let us loose each week on a group of unsuspecting OAP’s in Coventry with her fearless community theatre techniques and the miniature but mighty Elaine Turner whose encyclopedic knowledge of Modern British Theatre clearly stirred something in me.
Of course one of the marvelous things about Warwick, isn’t just what insights the tutors offer but it’s also all the societies to get involved with beyond the lectures. Not being located inside a city’s walls, where energy can easily get up sucked up by urban living, here we are inclined to make our own entertainment – and even on occasion get to present it here, in the number one touring venue on our doorstep, the Warwick Arts Centre. I think this goes a long way to explaining the success and entrepreneurial skills of alumni in the arts, as we are encouraged to be creative across the board.
In both my professional and my social life- even 25 years on, Warwick graduates prevail- you can’t escape us- nor would you want to. We are the makers and the innovators, the practitioners and the pioneers- we also hold the best parties. I believe we are affectionately known, by those who were not lucky enough to study here, as the Warwick Mafia- so to those of you graduating today, welcome to the club and congratulations.
I imagine many of you by now have a pretty good idea of what you want to do with your lives, I did- in fact I knew from the age of 7-but I have to confess, it wasn’t to be a playwright- especially not one who ended up clutching an Honorary Doctorate in her sweaty little hands.
Thanks to an incredibly inspiring teacher in my junior school, the formidable Mrs Blythe whose name I have since adopted, I discovered at a very young age that I wanted to be an actor. However not coming from a theatrical family, my parents understandably were keen for me to get a good education so that I had something to fall back on, so a university degree in Theatre Studies seemed like a sensible option and to be honest I think they were hoping that after 3 years of reading plays I might have gone off the idea, but quite the opposite.
Of course when I was here, we had the advantage of our academic fees being paid for, so we approached going to university through a different lens to the one students regrettably have to consider today. Therefore on leaving, with my passion for acting still strong, I trained at Mountview Theatre School for a year, but then followed 7 very difficult years of trying to get professional work.
I believe my highlight was appearing in the title role of the touring production of Frosty The Snowman which played in various supermarket forecourts around South East London. Joking apart I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my parents who are here today who supported me through those tough years. Despite the scarcity of jobs, they never told me to stop doing what I wanted and helped me all they could, even though I’m sure they would have preferred I get a proper job or at the very least marry someone who had one!
I didn’t think I could do any more than I was in terms of looking for work when I realized I didn’t even want half the jobs I was being rejected for and suspected I might be able to create something better myself. So through sheer desperation I was forced to think outside the box and in making my own work in which to perform, an unexpected new career presented itself, far more rewarding than the one I had been aiming for all that time.
I’m telling you this, not to put you off a life in the arts, but to illustrate that only in really pursuing your inner most passion will you discover where your real talents lie. So be open to where your dreams may take you and be brave in trying out different routes – you have no idea where they might lead you. At one stage I would have been overjoyed to play a doctor in Holby on TV, but now I get to be one for real! Thank you.
Audio interview with Alecky: https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/playwright_and_actor