Billy Elliot writer to receive honorary award from the University of Sunderland

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Honorary doctorate for internationally renowned playwright

Acclaimed playwright Lee Hall will receive an honorary award from the University of

Sunderland at a ceremony at London’s historic Southwark Cathedral.

Lee, famous for writing the film and musical Billy Elliot, will be presented with an

honorary doctorate of arts at the university of in London’s graduation ceremony on Thursday, 9 November - recognising his contribution to arts and culture in the North East.

Originally from Newcastle, Lee has been closely involved in the region's theatre and

culture for decades, especially so with the city’s Live Theatre. Many of his

works, including Billy Elliot and the play The Pitmen Painters, draw on the region’s

rich cultural heritage and its industrial history.

Lee says he is “thrilled and humbled” to be receiving an honorary doctorate from the

university, especially given its close association with Max Roberts, visiting professor

of theatre studies, film producer Lord David Putnam and with Live Theatre.

Lee said: “The honorary award is a recognition of what I’ve done in my career, but also a recognition of the work, community, and aspiration of north-east culture. The award is both individual and collective.”

An advocate for theatre and for North East culture, Lee celebrates the region as a “fountain of cultural inspiration” and is a strong believer in “art being a central part of civic life”.

Billy Elliot: The Musical, the story of a working-class boy from the industrial County Durham who aspires to be a ballet dancer, premiered in 2005 at London’s Victoria Palace Theatre and achieved global acclaim; seen by an audience of over 12 million across five continents and earning 80 accolades, including multiple Tony Awards and a Laurence Olivier Award.

Lee’s other works include writing the script for the play Shakespeare in Love, the screenplay for the Elton John biographical film, Rocketman, and The Pitmen Painters which, alongside Billy Elliot, draws on Lee’s childhood experience of growing up immersed in a strong working-class community dominated by heavy industry.

The location of Lee’s honorary award will be especially fitting. Southwark Cathedral sits close to the original Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare's plays were performed.

The autumn 2023 University of Sunderland in London graduation ceremonies take place at Southwark Cathedral on November 8 and 9.