I sat on the stage of the Brangwyn Hall, dressed in the robes of a Professor, and I listened to someone else’s life flash before me. Professor Judith Hall was being eulogised by her sponsor. In short, she had help cut the rate of infant mortality in Sub Saharan Africa in half. Her work was recognised by the United Nations and hospitals around the world. During her acceptance speech, in whispered tomes, she encouraged the new set of graduates from University of Wales Trinity St David to take their responsibilities seriously. To become citizens of the world. To share their good fortune and brains with those in the world who were far less fortunately than them.
As I sat there on the stage looking at the glowing faces of the new graduates and the proud faces of family and friends I must admit I started to panic. As I wasn’t completely sure how the ceremony was going to play out I wasn’t sure whether I would go through the same process before receiving my new honour as Professor of Practice. All I could hear in my mind was someone saying he might not have saved the world, but he did sing Fireman Sam, ladies and gentlemen Professor Mal Pope.
The new professors and Fellow sign the Lord Mayors Visitors Book
Thankfully, in the case of the 3 new Professors of Practice, our part of the ceremony was short and sweet. People were asked to refer to the brochure they had been given to find out why we were being honoured. Phew!!! It’s not that I’m embarrassed about Fireman Sam or the musicals I’ve written or 30 years talking to people on the radio and television but when you hear about people like Professor Judith Hall it does make you stop and think have I done enough for this world.
On Wednesday most of the students receiving their degrees weren’t doctors or scientist. Most came from the Arts side of the University. There were designers and musicians and actors and theatre technicians. Unless these students in later life were faced with someone being taken ill half way through a show I suppose it might be difficult to think of their work having the power over life or death.
On reflection I manged to put things in perspective. Whether you agree with everything he said its hard to argue with Jesus when he said, ‘the poor you will always have with you’. Isn’t that the truth? Ok so let’s have a look at that phrase. We know that 2000 years later what Jesus said is still true but why do we remember it? Why did it so stick in my mind that I didn’t have to google it to see if that was the correct phrase.
Firstly, somewhere at some time a writer wrote that phrase down. If Jesus was being true to himself he would have spoken the words in Aramaic, the common language of Judea in the first century AD. It’s not the sort of language that trips off the tongue so easily these days. Then someone translated it into Hebrew or Greek so that more people could understand the idea Jesus wanted to share. So, you might not be a doctor but if you are a linguist you have a special skill that can help spread ideas.
Then when it was translated into English for the King James Version in the early 1600’s they brought together some of the best writers to take the translations and turn them into good spoken English. If you’ve ever been asked to read a script or a speech written by someone else one of the first things I would advise is to read it yourself and see if it works when you speak. So many times in my early career as a broadcaster I would try my best to read a script which seemed to work fine on paper but it really didn‘t work at all when you read it out loud. Some phrases just didn’t work together when you tried to say them.
As not many people were able to read and write in the 1600’s they needed the Biblical language to work well spoken as well as written so that people could learn it from memory. That The rhythm and pace of the sentence helped to convey the truth of the idea. That’s why they got some of the best playwrights around at the time. including it is said Shakespeare. to take the idea and make them work as the spoken word. 500 years later I can still remember what Jesus said even if I don’t always practice what he preached.
— Swansea College of Art UWTSD (@ArtSwansea) July 11, 2018
It was lovely and encouraging to hear Prof Judith tell her audience of film makers and designers that their work was essential if her work was going to hit its mark and change the world. She needed their help to design the right packaging for medical equipment, to tell the story of poverty and to film the good work they did to encourage more people to give or join their programmes. Having said all that, I’m still glad that they simply called my name, gave me my professorship and didn’t mention Fireman Sam. Even though he’s the hero next door that afternoon that part was played by Prof Judith Hall.
Unveiling Coastal Path Sculptures
One of my first jobs as a new Professor at the University of Wales Trinity St David was to unveil a new piece of art by Ami Marsden on the Gower Coastal Path Trail. The Leaping Fish can be seen just a couple of hundred yards along the coastal path that runs form Mumbles, just past Fortes Café, towards Langland.
The work is one of 5 ‘Way Marking’ works between Mumbles and Rhosilli which have been created by Sculpture, Art and Education by the Sea. As well as marking out the coastal path these works are designed to inspire and educate whilst also encouraging people to pursue a healthy and active lifestyle.
Artist Ami Marsden
With support from the Welsh Governments Tourism Product Innovation Fund and a lot of local businesses, artists like Ami, Sara Holden and Tina Cunningham have been able to take reclaimed local oak and create really wonderful engaging works of art that will mark your way as you take the walk along our wonderful Gower coastline.
These works of art are just another reason you should get out there and enjoy the very best that Swansea has to offer. These days a trip to the seaside can really help the body but also feed the soul.
Photos Courtesy Phil Holden Photography