Patricia Greene

Commendation

Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, honoured guests and graduands, it gives me great pleasure to be presenting today, Patricia Greene MBE (actress), for the award of Honorary Master of Arts of the University.

Patricia (known as ‘Paddy’) is an actress who has had an exceptionally lengthy career in both radio and film. She will probably be best known to you all for portraying matriarch Jill Archer in the BBC Radio 4 show The Archers, for which she has been a cast member for 60 years.

Patricia was born in Allenton here in Derby in 1931, in the New Zealand area of the City. Despite spending her formative years during a severe economic slump, she still retains a strong emotional connection with Derby. Life may not have been easy growing up but Patricia remembers the City as an extremely friendly place.

When she was around seven years old her family moved to Chester Green when her father changed career from piano salesman (a rather unsuccessful venture) to engineer. They settled in that part of the City and Patricia attended St Paul’s School, where she formed some lifelong friendships.

Patricia missed out on a place at King’s College London after grammar school and instead went to work as a ward orderly in the Derby Children’s Hospital. She later worked as a secretary in the sheet metal factory of Hawk Industries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she was immediately recognised in this role for being ‘good on the phone’. However, a secretarial career was clearly not for her as she wrestled a growing desire to become an actress.

She became involved in local amateur dramatics where she found plenty of role models: she was directed by John Dexter, who later directed Sir Laurence Olivier among other luminaries, and she acted alongside Alan Bates in her drama society. In 1951, with the help of her former headmistress, she started three ‘glorious’ years of training at the Albert Hall with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. During her holidays she worked variously as a bus conductress on the trolley bus in Derby and as a waitress.

As a fledgling actress, Patricia worked widely in all kinds of repertory theatre (twice nightly and continental classical tours), in various television programmes and a film, as well as working regular stints at an Italian restaurant to supplement her income.

Patricia had been put off going for broadcasting roles by a tutor who had declared to her ‘You’ll never broadcast’. However the handsome salary of seven guineas a week persuaded her to audition for a six-week long job to play a sexy-blonde in a new radio drama for the BBC. Unknown to her at the time in 1957 this was a pivotal moment in Patricia’s career. After that performance a talent critic back here in Derby wrote a disguised compliment in a review that ‘she was buried alive in Ambridge’.

At the end of what Patricia describes as a horribly inept six weeks on The Archers, her producer at the BBC took her to one side and said ‘Congratulations, but cut the sex, you’re going to marry him!’, referring to the character of Phil Archer to whom Jill Archer was married for 52 years until his death in 2011.

It is the longevity of the programme that has made it a part of our social history. The ‘Academic Archers’ are fans of the show with an academic interest in the issues explored in its storylines.

Although nowadays Patricia works mainly in The Archers, during her career she has performed many radio plays and worked for several months on the television soap Crossroads, which she juggled with her other jobs. She had time out to work on Arnold Wesker’s film The Kitchen, and had stints at both Birmingham and Coventry Rep. There have also been some tours of Archers plays.

She is still stagestruck and her favourite pastime is going to the National Theatre.

In 2007 the Queen awarded Patricia an MBE for services to radio drama.

Chancellor, in recognition of an exceptional career in radio and entertainment, we are delighted to award Patricia Greene the honorary degree of Master of Arts of the University.

[July 2017]