Jeremy Irons’s Speech – Installation as Bath Spa University Chancellor

Jeremy Irons’s first speech as Chancellor of Bath Spa University at Bath Abbey, 4th November 2016.

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Times Higher Education: Interview with Jeremy Irons

Interview with Jeremy Irons by Hilary Lamb

We talk to the new chancellor of Bath Spa University about censorship, Brideshead Revisited and why campuses should be a place for outrage

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December 22, 2016

Jeremy Irons trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and has appeared in a wide variety of films from The French Lieutenant’s Woman to The Lion King. In 1991, he won an Oscar for his role in Reversal of Fortune. He is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, a patron of the Chiltern Shakespeare Company, and he holds an honorary degree from Southampton Solent University. He was recently inaugurated as the first chancellor of Bath Spa University.

Where and when were you born?
Cowes, Isle of Wight, in 1948.

How has this shaped you?
I went to boarding school when I was seven and it taught me the importance of family because we were together for only a third of the year.

What motivated you to take on the role at Bath Spa, considering that you have not been involved in higher education before?
It was an unexpected door opening. When I was invited [to take on the role], I felt unqualified but was convinced by Christina Slade, the vice-chancellor, and her board. I thought, well, I can give what I can give and it will be a very steep learning curve. I like that; I will always enjoy what life throws at me.

What do you hope to achieve as chancellor?
One of the things that Bath Spa focuses on is the link between culture and creativity and enterprise and the humanities. I think of myself as having rounded interests with some interest in politics, horses, sport, sailing, theatre, film-making, painting and architecture. I hope that my disparate interests can encourage the spirit that is already at Bath; that of cross-culturalisation between disciplines.

The Spiked rankings of free speech on campus have rated Bath Spa as a ‘hostile’ environment for free speech. Where do you stand on the issue of campus censorship?
I am entirely against that attitude. I hope that when I finish my chancellorship, Bath Spa will be seen as a place where individual expression of thought is admired. I think that university is a place for debate, outrage, and for putting forward and debating contentious ideas. It should be a place where you experiment with where you stand in life. If you don’t do that at university, where in God’s name are you going to do it? Of course, we should be kind to each other and understand each other’s perspectives but we must [also] be robust and challenge each other. I hate the idea that people could be attacked for saying what they think.

In Europe and the US, the populist Right has been using emotional appeals to win support. What could progressive politicians do to combat this?
I think that the vote for Donald Trump was very similar to the vote for Brexit. There seems to be a disconnect between what the people want and what they perceive government doing. There seems something deeply wrong with politics in that our leaders seem influenced far too much by the global economy, by large transnational corporations who have no interest in creating a fairer, more acceptable society. And our government should be doing that as well as worrying more about balancing the books. We need more idealism in government. I’m concerned that students are not entering into that debate. Well, they stirred a little bit after Brexit but, in my day, universities were a ferment of political idealism, thought and discussion. It’s all part of [the debate over] political correctness and not upsetting people. This is not a way to educate our children. We must all be rebellious. We must revolt against unfairness and the status quo, and if students are not going to join in that debate, who will?

You were involved in one of the most famous dramas set at a university. Has Brideshead Revisited had an impact on how higher education is perceived?
When it aired, I think it did change things a little bit; not necessarily for the better. One of the great things that can happen at university is that you have fun and you mix with a variety of people from different backgrounds, as Charles Ryder did.

If you were higher education minister for a day, what policy would you introduce?
I’d encourage firms to [offer] paid sabbaticals to their employees, [so they could] go and teach in universities, [to achieve] a real cross-fertilisation between business, industry and the professions, and teaching.

Do you have a personal rule that you never break?
I always try to treat people with respect and kindness, although I have a wicked sense of humour. Of course from time to time I fail, but that’s a rule that I try to follow. If you [stick to] it, it will keep you on the right path, even if you strongly disagree with people.

Will that wicked sense of humour put you in conflict with some students?
I suspect that it might, and I look forward to that.

Which of your characters would you most like to have as a roommate?
Father Gabriel from The Mission, he was a great guy.

What would you like to be remembered for?
As a stirrer-up of the shit: in other words, [bringing up] those things which need to be talked about that people aren’t talking about. I think that’s one of the functions of the arts, to make us see more clearly through the murky depths.

hilary.lamb@tesglobal.com

 

Jeremy Irons in SpaLife Magazine

Jeremy Irons is featured in the Fall/Winter 2016/2017 edition of SpaLife Magazine, from Bath Spa University.

Click on the link below to view the entire magazine in .pdf format –

SpaLife Magazine Online Edition

Click on the images below for full-sized views:

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Jeremy Irons Named Chancellor of Bath Spa University

Source

Bath Spa University has announced that Jeremy Irons has accepted the position of Chancellor. It is the first time in its history that the University will have a Chancellor.

Photograph: Jeremy Irons

The news was announced by Vice-Chancellor of Bath Spa University, Professor Christina Slade who said:

“Creativity is at the heart of Bath Spa University. Through his vast experience in the arts Jeremy Irons will bring unique insight to Bath Spa University and influence our vision to be the leading university for creativity, culture and enterprise.

“I look forward to working closely with Mr Irons in his new role and the opportunities this new relationship will afford the University.”

Jeremy Irons has a long and illustrious career in film, television and theatre. He trained at the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol and first performed on stage in 1969. He has appeared in numerous productions in both the West End of London and on Broadway winning a Tony Award for Best Actor for his role in The Real Thing in 1984.

His performance in TV series Brideshead Revisited resulted in his first Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and he won a further Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and an Emmy Award for his performance in Elizabeth I.

His numerous film credits include Kafka, Dead Ringers, Lolita, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Lion King, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Reversal of Fortune for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Speaking about his appointment, Jeremy Irons said:

“I am delighted and honoured to have been elected the first Chancellor of Bath Spa University. I look forward to playing a part in the University’s growing success and international renown.

“Being a believer in the importance of integrated education I am delighted to see the education and research happening at Bath Spa moving in this direction. Having been educated at Sherborne, trained and apprenticed at the Bristol Old Vic including a run at the Theatre Royal Bath it feels right for me to accept this role.

“I hope that my international visibility will be a further aid in attracting students from both this country and overseas. I look forward to my tenure.”

The Chancellor is the ceremonial figurehead of the university and plays an important ambassadorial role for the University.

An investiture ceremony will take place in the autumn when Jeremy Irons will formally be installed as Chancellor of Bath Spa University.