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Lenny Henry becomes chancellor of Birmingham City University

CHANCELLOR: Birmingham City University Chancellor, Sir Lenny Henry, poses in front of the institution’s City Centre Campus [Photo credit: Ben Goodwin]

MULTI AWARD-winning actor, writer, comedian and charitable campaigner Lenny Henry is to become the new chancellor of Birmingham City University.

The 57-year-old - who was knighted last year for services to drama and charity - has been a prominent campaigner on increasing diversity in the arts.

Birmingham City University chancellor, Henry said: "I get to wear a cape, I get a horse drawn carriage to take me around all the different campus sites! I get to be Shrek when I go to the animation studio and I get to make a grime album in the recording studio.

"It is so exciting, I could burst. I want to come here and be here. Wait a second… I am the chancellor. I am coming here!’

He added that the role was a "superb opportunity" to promote the West Midlands and help young people.

Home to Birmingham School of Acting, Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham School of Media, Birmingham City University is the biggest producer of creative professionals outside the South East.

The relationship with the Dudley-born star follows a tour of the campus earlier in the year when Henry saw for himself how the University opens doors to the creative arts for young people from a range of diverse backgrounds.

"I think all the facilities that Birmingham City University has are extraordinary. On my last trip here I saw an animation studio, a radio studio and a TV studio. I saw people studying on all these Macs which I couldn’t quite fit into my briefcase. I got to see all manner of exciting things happening here and it just feels like it is exploding with talent and diversity and cultural exchange – and that’s important."

The comedian was unveiled as the new chancellor today (Jul 21), during a second visit to the school.

During today’s visit, Henry met with current students and offered them advice as they think about their own future careers: "Have some fun in the industry. Make learning fun, make creativity fun. Go outside sometimes, it is good, but don’t go crazy."

MEET AND GREET: Birmingham City University Chancellor, Sir Lenny Henry meets students from the institution in front of the University’s £62 million Parkside Building [Photo credit: Ben Goodwin]

Professor Cliff Allan, vice-chancellor of Birmingham City University, said: “We are absolutely delighted that one of the country’s most well-known personalities is to be our new Chancellor. He not only encapsulates the University’s commitment to both the arts and widening participation, but he is a strong advocate for Birmingham and the region, including his home town of Dudley.

“Sir Lenny joins at a very exciting time for the University, as we continue to develop facilities that are the envy of other universities and even industry professionals. What I’m most excited by is that Sir Lenny doesn’t want to be a remote ceremonial figure but is determined to play an active role as a hands-on Chancellor. He will have his own office and staff to enable him to be a big part of what we do over the next five years.”

Echoing the comedian's calls for greater black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation in the television industry, the university has a reputation for giving life changing opportunities to students from diverse backgrounds. In the 2013-14 academic year 45.2 per cent of Birmingham City University’s students came from low income households, with 48 per cent from BAME backgrounds.

Henry will serve a five year term as Chancellor at Birmingham City University and will be formally installed in November this year.

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