Issue date: 17 November 2003

ISSUE DATE: 17/11/03

The University of the West of England will award the honorary degree of Doctor of Arts to Professor Sir Christopher John Frayling on Wednesday 19 November. The honorary degree will be conferred at the Award Ceremony of the Faculty of Art, Media and Design at 2.45pm at Bristol Cathedral.

Christopher Frayling was educated at Repton School and Churchill College, Cambridge, where he studied history and was awarded a PhD in the history of ideas.

He was a lecturer at the Universities of Exeter and Bath during the 1970s and a film archivist at the Imperial War Museum in London researching for the television series, The World at War. He became a full time member of staff at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in 1979.

As the RCA’s first Professor of Cultural History, Christopher Frayling founded the Department of Cultural History and established pioneering postgraduate courses in: the history of design (with the Victoria and Albert Museum); modern cultural theory; the conservation of artefacts (with the Victoria and Albert Museum and Imperial College); and, Visual Arts Administration (with the Arts Council and the Tate Gallery). As author of two substantial books on the history of the Royal College of Art, Professor Frayling is also the College’s historian.

An historian, a critic and a broadcaster, Professor Frayling is well known for his work with the BBC and Channel 4. His five-part television series for BBC2 The Face of Tutankhamun was critically acclaimed as ‘an adventure worthy of Spielberg’ and his follow-up five part series for BBC2 Strange Landscape – the illumination of the middle ages, was screened in the summer of 1995. This was followed at Christmas 1996 by a major four-part BBC1 television series, called Nightmare – the birth of horror.

He has published over a dozen books and numerous articles on visual culture, design and the history of ideas, over the last twenty-five years, the most recent being his vast biography of the Italian film-maker Sergio Leone. He has also published academic articles on the history of ideas, arising from his doctoral work, and contributed essays to many exhibition catalogues – including those of the Hayward Gallery, the Serpentine and the Victoria and Albert Museum – as well as delivering papers to conference proceedings and writing public sector reports.

Sir Christopher is the longest-serving Trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum (since 1983) and was the longest-serving member of the Arts Council of England, (1987-2000) having chaired successively its Visual Arts, Combined Arts, Education and Film, Video and Broadcasting panels. In the 1980s he was a governor of the British Film Institute and a member of the Crafts Council. He is currently a member of the Arts & Humanities Research Board, soon to be the Arts and Humanities Research Council, for which he campaigned, and Chairman of the Royal Mint Advisory Committee. More recently he became Chairman of the Design Council with its emphases on design in business, design in education, and design which takes full account of users – in short, on ‘design for people’.

When asked what his main recreation is Sir Christopher tends to reply ‘finding time’.

In 1996, Professor Frayling was appointed Rector of the RCA, the only wholly postgraduate university of art and design in the world – whose graduates include many of the household names in today’s creative industries. On New Year’s Eve 2000, he was knighted for ‘services to art and design education’.

The Honorary Degree is awarded in recognition of Sir Christopher Frayling’s standing as a leading authority on visual culture, design and history and of his contribution to the promotion of a cultural partnership connecting commerce and the arts, a mission shared by the University of the West of England.


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