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Bristol Distinguished Address Series
UWE AWARDS HONORARY DEGREE TO CHRISTOPHER PARSONS OBE
13 November 2001
Christopher Parsons is to be awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science in recognition of his distinguished career and related achievements, particularly in encouraging public interest in natural history and the importance of maintaining biodiversity.
Christopher Parsons was born in Winchester and attended Tiverton Grammar School before reading mathematics, physics and chemistry at the University College of the South-West, which is now Exeter University. He served as an Education Officer in the Royal Air Force from 1953-1955.
In 1955 Christopher Parsons joined the BBC West Region as an Assistant Film Editor and became Acting Film Editor on ‘Look’, with Peter Scott. In 1957 he was a founder member of the BBC Natural History Unit.
Between 1959 and 1967 Christopher Parsons worked as a producer on many feature documentaries including ‘The Major’ about life in an oak tree, which was the Natural History Unit’s first colour film.
In 1968 Christopher Parsons became Executive Producer of ‘The World About Us’, a flagship colour documentary series on BBC2. His programmes received many awards and British Academy nominations as well as the coveted television Prix Italia for the documentary ‘Signals for Survival’.
From 1976 to 1978 Christopher Parsons was the Executive Producer of ‘Life on Earth’, a highly praised and groundbreaking series presented by David Attenborough. On completion of the series, in 1979, he was appointed to the newly created post of Head of the Natural History Unit when it obtained departmental status within the BBC.
Christopher Parsons was a co-founder of Bristol’s bi-annual international Wildscreen Festival in 1982. In the same year he was awarded an OBE in recognition of his services to natural history broadcasting, and was also elected Honorary Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. He was later responsible for developing the BBC’s commercial interests in natural history media products, including videos and the BBC Wildlife magazine. In 1986 he received the Royal Television Society’s, Sir Ambrose Fleming Award and in 1988 he was a founder trustee of the Wildscreen Trust.
In 1988 Christopher Parsons retired from the BBC and founded Christopher Parsons Productions Limited which engaged in wildlife film consultancy and production. He has since developed natural history large format films for Imax Corporation and was Co-executive Producer of ‘Mountain Gorilla’ and Producer of ‘The Secret of Life on Earth’ and ‘Survival Island’.
Following the success of the biennial Wildscreen Festival, in 1989 Christopher Parsons proposed and developed Bristol’s Wildscreen Centre and ARKive. This involved work with colleagues at the University of the West of England to establish a mixed-media digital repository of materials concerning the world’s endangered species, accessible on the Internet. The Wildscreen Centre represents a new holistic approach to wildlife visitor attractions and aims to correct common public misconceptions about the natural world and address the importance of maintaining biodiversity. The innovative approach to its main exhibition – Wildwalk - blends the resources of the wildlife media industry with live animals and plants. It is now part of the Millennium Commission supported @Bristol complex.
Christopher Parsons received the World Wildlife Fund International Award for Conservation Merit in 2000 and in the same year he was elected Fellow of The Moving Image Society.
Amongst many other charitable activities, Christopher Parsons is a Trustee of the World Land Trust, a Council Member of Nature in Art, and an Ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund, UK.
The Honorary Degree is awarded in recognition of Christopher Parsons’ distinguished career and related achievements, particularly in encouraging public interest in natural history and the importance of maintaining biodiversity.
The honorary degree of Doctor of Science will be conferred at the degree ceremony of the Faculty of Applied Science on Wednesday 14 November at 11.30am at Bristol Cathedral.
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