Ayckbourn Talks: CU Scarborough (2018)

This talk was given by Alan Ayckbourn for CU Scarborough (University of Coventry Scarborough campus) one their first graduation ceremony on 9 July 2018. Alan was the campus's first honorary graduate (awarded Doctor Of Letters) and gave the inaugural honorary graduate speech.

“This is a special day indeed for Scarborough, a special day for Coventry University Scarborough, a special day for you and - may I add - it is a very special day for me too. Thank you.

“I’ve had one or two of these in my time and I always feel when I’m asked to speak I have to say something earth shatteringly challenging that sets you up for life. I’m totally inadequate and incapable of doing that.

“However, one or two life lessons I’ve learnt. I tend to think back to, were things better in my day? No. Are things better today? Well, sort of. Were things worse in my day? Well, sort of.

“I think the idea that civilisation progresses is a myth really. We sort of progress but being the human beings that we are with our flaws and faults, I think we move forward in the way a chess piece - a knight - moves forward. In a bad year, we move one pace forward and two to the side. In a good year we move two paces forward and one to the side. And you’re lucky to get one of those.

“So in the end, progress is going forward but also going a bit sideways. And depending on the year and the Government, we may be jumping to the right or the left. In the end we are moving forward and I think for those of us who have lived a very long time and see the sort of problems coming up again, I don’t want to throw those at you now.

“Just to say, that we are moving forward and don’t be put off by all the garbage that’s printed in the press, on the internet, on the television and on social media, which is all - in the main - pessimistic. I remain an optimist and I hope you will too. At your stage in life, you should be. The world is at your feet.
“The world is back there for me, but I still feel it’s at my feet. I just keep writing new plays like there’s no tomorrow. In fact my colleagues’ hearts sink when they see me coming with a new play.

“Please look forward, be optimistic and don’t believe everything you read in the papers. If you believed everything you’d read in the papers, most of the good people would have died because you only read about good people such as politicians like Jo Cox or people killed in tragic accidents which has happened so frequently recently. These are the people who are then paid fitting tributes to and that’s really depressing when you then think all the bastards are still alive.

“And so, don’t be one of those to die early and get your tributes, do live long and be prepared to accept accolades at the end of your life and not mid-way through it.

“I thank you for honouring me in this way and am totally flattered and am certainly unworthy of any reward. Although I keep being given them, so I suppose I’m wroth something.

“Bless you all, thank you.”

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn / transcription copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.