UWE awards honorary degree to Dick Penny

Issue date: 15 November 2010


The University of the West of England will award the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Arts to Dick Penny in recognition of his significance to Bristol's cultural media and his work in aligning a range of people to influence national debate and strengthen Bristol's status within it.

The Honorary Degree will be conferred at the Awards Ceremony of the School of Creative Arts on Tuesday 16 November at 17.00 at Bristol Cathedral.

Dick Penny was born in Droitwich Spa and grew up in Ross-on-Wye. He was educated at Monmouth School and Ross Grammar School.

Before working in the arts Dick Penny worked as a builder, a computer programmer, a production controller in furniture manufacture and commercial vehicle building, and as general manager of an industrial textile company.

Dick Penny's first role in the arts was as an administrator with the Little Theatre Co from 1980-1983. During this time he also learned how to build sets, operate lights and build relationships with audiences.

Between 1986 and 1988, Dick Penny served as Associate Director for the Bristol Old Vic, working with Paul Unwin to develop programme and audience. In the 1990s Penny's production company, Rebbeck Penny, co-produced Macbeth with Bristol Old Vic for a UK tour, and in 2001 the company produced Scaramouche Jones for a UK and world tour. Both productions starred Peter Postlethwaite. In 2007 Dick Penny took over as Executive Chair of Bristol Old Vic with the main objective of reopening England's longest running theatre.

In 1991, he took up the post of Director of Watershed Media Centre, the UK's first media centre. He performed this role until 1993. The Watershed employs the equivalent of over seventy full-time staff and has an annual turnover of approximately £3.8 million. Dick Penny is the current Managing Director of Watershed Media Centre, and has been in post since 1998.

During his career in the arts, Dick Penny's Arts Management and Consultancy projects have included work for: Artspace (now Spike Island); Arts Council England; British Federation of Film Societies; British Film Institute; Cinema 100; Cornerhouse; Cumbernauld Theatre; Dundee Rep; First Light; Folly; Jazz Central; Jubilee Arts; Liverpool Everyman; Picture This; Royal Shakespeare Company; Scottish Film Council; TSW Film and TV Archive; Theatre Workshop; West Yorkshire Playhouse; and several projects as associate with Peter Boyden including The Boyden Report on Regional Theatre.

Dick Penny said, “Our Universities are our future and UWE is at the forefront of broadening access to excellent higher education which is essential for the future cultural and economic health of our city region. I am proud and flattered to join the many young people graduating and become a member of the UWE community.”

Dick Penny has served on the boards of the Ashton Court Festival and Circomedia, and he was an active member of Campaign for the Arts in Bristol and Avon.

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