Jack O'Connell

Jack O'Connell receiving his honorary award (Honorary Master of the Arts)
Credit: Ede & Ravenscroft


Ladies and Gentlemen, Vice-Chancellor it gives me great pleasure to be presenting today Jack O’Connell, for the award of Honorary Master of the Arts.

We are very proud that Jack was born in Derby, is an active patron of Quad and a Derby County supporter. He started his acting life in productions at the city’s Saint Benedict School and Performing Arts College. One of the University’s progression schools. He has put Derby on the map.

Jack’s breakthrough year was 2014 which saw him make the transition from UK TV & film - starring in critically acclaimed roles in Starred Up and ’71 (Seventy One) for which he was nominated for a British Independent Film Award - to Hollywood. He subsequently took the lead of Louis Zamperini in Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie, for which he was presented with the New Hollywood Award at the Hollywood Film Awards.

The University became aware of Jack’s achievements, just at the point of this breakthrough. We wished to recognise his significant contribution to the visual and performing arts at such a young age and were delighted that he accepted our offer to award him an honorary degree. That was just as his brilliant career took a step forward into the international arena.

His ongoing and prolific work schedule has meant that he has been unable to receive his award at one of our graduation ceremonies. We are very grateful to (Derby) Quad for assisting us to finally formally recognise Jack’s achievements tonight.

He has won and been nominated for dozens of international film and television accolades and is one of the UK’s most versatile and exciting actors.
A particular highlight was receiving the ‘New Hollywood Award’ at the Hollywood Film Awards in 2014. 2015 saw him receive the prestigious BAFTA Rising Star Award for his impressive body of work, marking him as one of the UK’s rising young stars. He has received consecutive nominations for the ‘Best Actor’ award at the British Independent Film Awards.

His film debut in the role of Pukey Nicholls in This is England, was written and directed by Shane Meadows. The (supporting) role of the belligerent Pukey was written specifically for Jack. Roles then followed with stints in British TV series including Waterloo Road, Doctors and Skins.

Skins was Jack’s breakthrough television role when he took the part of troubled and hard-living James Cook. In his most recent TV role Jack is a lead character in Netflix production Godless, created by Scott Frank.

Jack has used his own life experiences to shape his work and tackle tough roles. His determination, desire and will to succeed despite his personal difficulties has allowed him to grow into an outstanding actor.

He has taken his career to great heights, breaking into Hollywood films at an early age. His film, television and theatre credits are considerable and too many to list here. You are an inspiration to our students.

Vice-Chancellor, it is my great honour to present Jack O’Connell for the Award of Honorary Master of the Arts in recognition of his achievements in the visual and performing arts.

[November 2018]