Our Artistic Director, Matthew Xia, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from UAL on 17 July. He received it from Chancellor Grayson Perry and was invited to give a speech of acceptance - here it is.
PS Matthew’s mum was in the audience, and it’s her that he addresses first…
Look mum - I did it!
Sorry - you have no idea how unexpected me being here in this get up is!
Thank you UAL for giving me this award!
This means so much to me - honestly - so much!
Low educational attainment has always been a bit of a chip on my shoulder. Two A*’s at GCSE - and I bet you can name the subjects - yep Art and Drama.
And I got a B in everything else.
But that’s it.
That’s as far as I got.
And with the removal of the arts from the curriculum, reduced trips to galleries, museums and live events, and the prioritisation of STEM subjects - I can only despair for the kids in schools now who are denied those creative and expressive opportunities.
Art was my lifeline.
It seems that now formative education is about retention of knowledge, learning rules and instructions and formulas and fact and figures by rote - instead of nurturing perceptive, curious, creative minds.
You see I never really got along with formal education - So I dropped out of 6th form and decided to go and be a superstar DJ and theatre artist.
That all kept me rather busy... and now I’m approaching 40!
So I’m genuinely amazed to be here, with you, celebrating your achievements, your dedication, your focus and drive at the very moment you step into the world as artists, makers, designers and creative thinkers.
...and holy shit does the world need you right now!
The Arts present an alternative, a shifted perspective, a new way of seeing things - art inspires, art changes, art disrupts.
It can generate understanding, compassion and empathy.
So go out there and make the work you want to see in the world.
Turn your unique way of thinking into art.
Share your perspective.
And most importantly - and this is harder than it sounds - learn to sound like you (I’m still working on this!)
Then, believe in your voice - it’s different - it’s unique.
Share your truth.
And trust yourself
Art speaks truth to power.
The act of creation is political.
Art is political.
And right now - the politics of this country - this planet - are fucked...so now... NOW...is the time for us - as artists - to go to work.
Make art that makes a difference
Inspire people to take action
It’s the imaginations of yesteryear that dreamt up the omnishambles we find ourselves in today.
We need better imaginations
I look forward to living in a future...
...imagined by you.
And so now you know how to make the art.
But how do you make it happen?
Well first, don’t dream big unless you can also dream practical.
Ask yourself - what is the next step
Know that in your career you will be defined by three things:
and your attitude to your work and your relationships.
Neil Gaiman tells us that to get work... and keep getting work:
⁃ The work must be good.
⁃ You must deliver on time.
⁃ And - You have to be easy to get along with.
He goes on to say that people will often be forgiving if you can only muster two of those most of the time.
So know that you will fail, in order to succeed.
You have to. You must.
This is where the next lessons are to be found.
There are no shortcuts.
It takes hard work:
So go and make things happen.
Don’t wait for opportunity.
And it’s not a competition
So champion others
And when you get to the top send the elevator back down.
Each and every one of you.