L – R: Es Devlin, June Sarpong, Frances Morris, Rhianna Pratchett

Acclaimed set designer to the stars, Es Devlin, TV personality and activist, June Sarpong, Director of Tate Modern, Frances Morris and global gaming figurehead, Rhianna Pratchett are among 12 leading creative figures to be given honorary awards by UAL this year.

They will be recognised for their outstanding contributions to the creative industries at UAL’s Graduation Ceremonies at the Royal Festival Hall from 25 – 28 July 2017. The full list of Honoraries for 2017:


Es Devlin OBE – Honorary Fellowship, Camberwell College of Arts & Wimbledon College of Arts

Es Devlin, Mirror Maze, Installation at Copeland Park 2016

Multi-award winning international set-designer Es Devlin had Miley Cyrus slide onto stage on a huge pink plastic tongue, Adele singing in a box filled with rain and a 60-foot animatronic robot delivering the band members of Take That onto the stage.

In her 20 years as a set designer, she has worked across a range of genres from concerts, opera, dance, film, theatre and TV. From the Royal Shakespeare Company to the Rolling Stones, the Royal Ballet to Beyonce, the Central Saint Martins alumna has designed world arena tours for the likes of Kanye West to Katy Perry, Rhianna, Adele, Lady Gaga and U2, just to name a few. With three Louis Vuitton catwalk shows and two Olympic ceremonies (London’s closing ceremony in 2012 and Rio’s opening ceremony in 2016) under her belt, she has received multiple accolades including three Oliviers and in 2015, an OBE for Services to Set and Stage Design.

Noting that some of the world’s best set-designers have come from UAL’s Wimbledon College of Arts and Central Saint Martins, she says:

I can say with absolute, utter, wholeheartedness, that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I hadn’t gone to Central Saint Martins and done its foundation course. It’s incredibly meaningful for me to be honoured in this way.”


Peter Firmin – Honorary Fellowship, Central Saint Martins

Peter Firmin posing with Bagpuss at his home

Award-winning artist behind television classics Bagpuss and The Clangers, Peter Firmin is an alumnus of Central Saint Martins having both studied and lectured there.

From Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog, Firmin worked with Oliver Postgate to found “Smallfilms” and create some of the nation’s best-loved television ever made, not just for children but across the entire medium. Bagpuss was voted the nation’s favourite children’s TV programme in a 1999 BBC poll, thanks to regular, rapturously received repeats on television from the 1960s to the 1980s. In 2014, Firmin was honoured at the BAFTA Children’s Awards for his outstanding contribution to children’s media and entertainment.

Firmin’s advice for UAL graduates is simple:

“Picasso once said: ‘copy anybody but don’t copy yourself’. We all start off with great ideals and get seduced. Don’t go after the cash, remember what you wanted to do in the beginning and follow your own intuition.”


Nicola Mendelsohn OBE – Honorary Doctorate, London College of Communication

Nicola Mendelsohn

Named as one of the Most Inspiring Women in European Tech, Nicola Mendelsohn is Facebook’s Vice President of Europe, the Middle East and Africa – holding the most senior position outside the US.

In her role, she says it is meeting with small business owners, especially women that inspires her:

“It is very humbling to see the change they can bring to their families and communities, by creating businesses online that can sell to the world.”

Made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for Services to the Creative Industries, she is Industry Chair at the Creative Industries Council, as well as holding posts as Director of Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and Co-President of Norwooda Jewish charity supporting vulnerable children.

Reflecting on lessons she has learned, she advises UAL graduates:

“Do the things that make you fearful —they are usually the things that will give you the most excitement.”


Caroline Rush CBE – Honorary Doctorate, London College of Fashion

Nadja Swarovski, Caroline Rush and Natalie Massenet attend The Fashion Awards 2016, London; Copyright: Getty Images/ Mike Marsland

Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, Caroline Rush has been instrumental in launching a plethora of new initiatives that have worked to propel British fashion onto a global platform. She is a member of the London Cultural Strategy Group, helping to promote London as a world-class city of culture.

Awarded a CBE for her services to the British Fashion Industry, Rush can be credited with the 25th anniversary of London Fashion Week (LFW), including the launch of the BFC/Vogue Designer Fund, the BFC Fashion Arts Foundation, the Hedonism and Rock Vault millinery and fine jewellery initiatives, the launch of a dedicated menswear fashion week in London in 2012, the LONDON show ROOMS platform for designers to showcase their brands outside of the UK; and Britain Creates in conjunction with the 2012 Olympic Games and the launch of an annual global Fashion Awards for the industry. Working closely with UAL’s London College of Fashion she says:

“UAL delivers an incredible level of education. I feel incredibly honoured to be receiving this award from them.”


The ceremonies will be streamed live on UAL’s website and live-tweeted under the hashtag #UALGrads.