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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Meerkat Man's honorary University of Cumbria fellowship

The funnyman best known for voicing Aleksandr the meerkat was cheered as he brought down the curtain on another series of summer graduations for the University of Cumbria.

Simon Greenall photo
Simon Greenall, the voice of Aleksandr the meerkat

But it was left to Dr Fiona Powley to utter the famous ‘Simples’ catchphrase in her citation before Simon Greenall, from Longtown, was presented with his honorary fellowship from vice-chancellor Professor Peter Strike.

It was given in recognition of his contribution to the film and television industry. Simon’s career has involved working with comedians including Steve Coogan and partnerships Hale and Pace and Smith and Jones.

He is also the voice of Captain Barnacles Bear in the children’s TV animated series The Octonauts. The actor was also co-executive producer of the film adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel We Need To Talk About Kevin.

The 56-year-old explained in an inspiring and humorous speech how important it is to take risks in life.

He also urged students to ‘keep learning’ and make the most of their education.

Simon said: “About five years ago I went to Mumbai for the first time and there you can do a tour of the slums, it is like a tourist attraction.

“But it was one of the most educational and inspiring things I’ve ever seen. It is an anthill of industry and inspiration and they make a living from the rubbish dump.

“After spending money on food the next thing they spend their money on is their children’s education. There are also tiny schools with children writing on recycled paper. Please value your education, they know it is what’s going to get them out of there.”

He added: “They all want to be doctors, chemists, research scientists, professors, lawyers. There are no WAGs. They know we have a fantastic education – value it and use it.”

“From now on don’t be put off when people say things like ‘no-one from this family has gone on to do that’ or ‘no-one from here goes off to do those things’.

“Do it, try it and take a risk. Hey, I came from Longtown where careers advice was the three Fs – farm, factory or forces. And be ambitious, even though it is a very un-British thing to be. Think of those children in India and remember your nightmare job is their dream career. Don’t be worried about what other people think or may say.”

Simon, who is returning to the stage this summer for the first time in 20 years, was joined yesterday by his sisters Karen and Judith, brother-in-law Jim and family friend Fiona Hughes.

Almost 1,500 graduates have had their degrees conferred in 10 ceremonies at Carlisle Cathedral since Tuesday.

In total, more than 3,000 Cumbria University students have completed academic courses this year.

Carlisle-born Dame Dr Sue Ion, former group director of technology at British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, and Peter Woolaghan, experts in science and engineering, have also received honorary fellowships this week.

Dame Sue, who was born in Raffles and educated in the city, is one of the world’s leading nuclear experts.

Whitehaven-born Mr Woolaghan, managing director of Cleator Moor’s React Engineering, received his fellowship almost 25 years to the day that he graduated with his engineering degree from Salford University.

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