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Poet SuAndi honoured with degree

INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED performance poet SuAndi has been awarded an honorary degree for her outstanding contribution to British art by Lancaster University.

The Manchester-born artist was presented with the honorary degree by Alan Milburn on March 4 – one of his very first tasks as Chancellor having been officially installed that day.

On receiving the honour, SuAndi said: “This honorary degree illustrates that Lancaster University values voices outside of academia and for me, as a self-taught poet and writer, it is my Oscar.”

Born of Nigerian and British heritage, Susan Marie Andi was a dancer and a model before becoming a performance poet in 1985. In more recent years, she has also worked in Live Art, touring and lecturing nationally and internationally.

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In the speech delivered by the University’s Public Orator Dr Gavin Hyman, SuAndi was commended for her portfolio of work, which included her critical writing on race.

“A consciously black writer, her work powerfully speaks to readers of all races. She has sought to provoke and challenge, not for its own sake, but with a view to inducing her hearers to see the world differently,” said Hyman.

A practitioner of live art, SuAndi has a strong association with Lancaster University, both through her work with theatre studies and the Moving Manchester research project, which explored how migration has informed Manchester’s literary scene since the 1960s.

An active supporter of the arts, both locally and nationally, SuAndi has been voluntary cultural director of the National Black Arts Alliance (NBAA) since its formation in 1985. In 1999, she was awarded an OBE for her contributions to black arts.

She told The Voice: “For years, performance poetry struggled to be recognised as a respectful art form within literature. For an equal amount of time, black artists working in all genres have been regarded as not measuring up to a standard set by the mainstream assisted by academia.”

In her role as cultural director for the NBAA, SuAndi has relentlessly campaigned for greater justice in arts funding for black creativity.

She said her degree was a sign that “the times are changing as more of us are gaining not just recognition of our art by audiences and some funders, but by the core establishment”.

Paying homage to those who inspired her, she added: “I follow in the footsteps of artists such as Karen Gallagher in dance and Lemn Sissay in poetry, whose artistic endeavour has been acknowledged in the same way that Lancaster University has chosen to honour me. My thanks go to all who supported my nomination.”

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