Brookside veterans Phil Redmond and Sue Johnston reunited at graduation

Posted on 5th November 2010
The following people will be conferred with Honorary Degrees by the University of Chester during today's graduation ceremony in Chester Cathedral.
Sue Johnston OBE will receive a Doctor of Letters in recognition for her outstanding contribution to television, drama and the performing arts.

Susan Johnston was born in Warrington and started work in a tax office in Liverpool.

Interested in acting, she performed with an amateur group in St Helens before joining the Salford Players. She then studied at the Weber Douglas Academy in London.

During the 1970s she worked within the theatre-in-education movement and in the late 1970s she appeared in a variety of television programmes including Coronation Street.

She then met Phil Redmond whose brand new company Mersey Television was auditioning for the new soap Brookside and Sue landed the part of Sheila Grant.

Sue has become a national figure appearing in The Royle Family, Jam and Jerusalem, Brassed Off and Goodbye Cruel World amongst others. She has received countless commendations including the British Comedy Awards, BAFTA nominations, Royal Television Awards, Scouseology Awards and an OBE in 2009 for her services to drama.

She has supported many charitable causes included the Breakthrough Cancer Campaign, Comic Relief and the Kirsty Howard Appeal.

Professor Phil Redmond CBE will receive a Doctor of Letters in recognition for his contribution to television, performing arts and the development of the region.

Professor Redmond started his career as a Quantity Surveyor but was determined to succeed as a writer. In 1972 he took the brave step of giving up his post and setting himself a target of six months to achieve a commission. He sold a script for an episode of Doctor in Charge and then received a number of commissions including work as a comedy writer for ABC Television.

In 1978 he developed the school-based series, Grange Hill, which earned him the Writers Guild Best Newcomer and went on to achieve a 30 year run. During the 1980s he set up Mersey Television which went on to become the largest independent television company in the UK, producing such programmes as Hollyoaks and Emmerdale.

In 1989 he was made an Honorary Professor of Media Studies at Liverpool John Moores University. In 1993 he founded the first regional branch of BAFTA - the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Three years later he was appointed Vice Chair of the North West Film Commission, becoming a patron in 1999. He was awarded the CBE in 2004.

He and wife Alexis, who built the company with him, sold Mersey Television in 2005 and in 2006 he joined Liverpool's Capital of Culture Board later becoming Creative Director. He is Chair, and Alexis a Trustee, of National Museums Liverpool and both are closely involved with the arts, culture and charity including Alder Hey Hospital.

The Right Reverend Alan Chesters CBE will receive a Doctor of Theology in recognition for his contribution to education, rural affairs and the Church of England.

Reverend Chesters held an ambition for the priesthood from the age of 14. He took a place at St Stephen's House Theological College in Oxford from 1959 to 1962, simultaneously taking a BA in Theology at St Catherine's College Oxford, and later his MA. He was ordained at Southwark Cathedral as Deacon in 1962 and Priest in 1963. He became Curate at St Anne's Wandsworth from 1962 to 1966. In 1966 he became Chaplain and Head of RE at Tiffin School in Kingston.

He was Director of Education for the Diocese of Durham from 1972 until 1985 then Archdeacon of Halifax until 1989. He was consecrated Bishop in York Minster in April 1989 and served as Bishop of Blackburn from 1989 until his retirement in 2003.

In retirement he has served as Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Chester and Diocese of St Asaph. He has been a member of Chapter of Chester Cathedral and the Bishop of Chester's Honorary Advisor for Rural Affairs. He was a member of General Synod from 1975 until 2003 and a member of the standing committee from 1985 until 1989 and again from 1990 to 1998. He was a Church Commissioner for England from 1983 until 1998 and a member of its Board of Governors from 1992 to 1998. He was a member of the House of Lords from 1995 until 2003.

He was Governor of St Hild and St. Bede, Durham; a member of Durham County Council Education Committee; Chair of the Higher Education Funding Council for England Committee for Church Colleges; Chair of Governors of St Martin's College of HE in Lancaster; Chair of Council of St. Stephen's House, Oxford; President of the Woodard Schools Corporation; Governor of Blackburn College; Governor of Bishops' Blue Coat High School, Chester; Member of Council of the University of Chester and Chair of the University Council Mission Committee. He has been granted Honorary Fellowships at six further Universities and Colleges.

He was a member of the Board of the Countryside Commission for England and subsequently of the Countryside Agency Board. He was a member of the national task force during the foot and mouth outbreak and a member of the Rural Affairs Forum for England as well as Chair of the North West Rural Affairs Forum (DEFRA) from 2002 till 2007.

He was President of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils from 2004 until 2010. In the New Year Honours List in 2007 he was awarded a CBE for services to the community in the North West.