On 26 March, we joined the actor and writer as she walked up the aisle of the Church of King Charles the Martyr in Falmouth, where she vowed to become a “warrior” for Cornwall’s university.
Taking to the podium after a sweeping bow from Vice-Chancellor Anne Carlisle, Dawn spoke of her 35 years spent within the arts, “or rather, what my granny used to call ‘acting the goat’.” She celebrated the “5,000 reasons” that she took the post: the 5,000 students currently the university with the hope of continuing into a career in the arts.
She fought back (much like a warrior) against the Education Secretary’s warning that the arts as a degree choice was not “future proof” in the same way as the sciences. “What people want to know in these austere times is ‘can you get a job?’” she asked. “At Falmouth, the answer is clearly ‘yes you can’.” While creativity might not provide food, she argued, it answers a “visceral, vital need” to express ourselves, connect with others, and shape our world. “‘One and all’, is who the arts belong to, and ‘one and all’ must ever be its rallying cry.”
To that end, Dawn vowed to take on any other university chancellors. “I don’t mean metaphorically”, she clarified; “I will actually fight them. With weapons, with kicking, and with biting,” concluding with a special message to The Princess Royal at the University of Edinburgh: “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough, ma’am.”
After such a rousing, positive, and faintly aggressive speech, the best thing to do was celebrate. In the evening, we tried our hand at bartending as we set up our new Nixon bar for the very first time at the Falmouth University staff party. Martin and Diggory were on hand to serve a special ‘French Summer Cup’: a light, summer drink using Sipsmith’s delicious Summer Cup gin concoction.
With entertainment from the Kernow King and the band Go! Next, it was a fantastic opportunity for the staff to celebrate their latest – and most important – addition. Long may she reign.
Watch Dawn French’s installation ceremony speech in full here.