Mark Featherstone-Witty, Founding Principal of The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), has been awarded an OBE for his contribution to learning through the creative and performing arts and to the profile of Liverpool as an international cultural hub. His name is amongst those listed in the 2014 Birthday Honours List announced today.
LIPA is the institute he co-founded with Sir Paul McCartney in the mid-1990s, after setting up the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology for 14 -16 year olds in Croydon in 1991.
The idea for a higher education performing arts institute with a different curriculum, based in Liverpool, was born after a meeting between Mark and Sir Paul in 1989. A £18m fundraising campaign was needed so that the doors could open, for the first time, in 1995.
LIPA's lead patron, Sir Paul commented: "I am glad that my colleague and friend now has a national honour. He has done many things since we first met, not least playing an important role in the regeneration of my hometown, Liverpool".
Sir George Martin commented: 'Now that LIPA is a reality, I can see just how justifiable all the effort was. I do know that without Mark, neither LIPA nor The BRIT School would ever have seen the light of day'.
Mark's idea for LIPA came about after he watched Sir Alan Parker's film FAME in the early 1980s and decided to create a performing arts school focused on giving students the skills to achieve lasting careers within arts and entertainment. As he says: 'I listened to many creative and performing arts survivors and turned the reality of their learning into a curriculum'. The BRIT School was the first outcome.
Sir Alan William Parker, the director of Fame, said the OBE was a worthy recognition of Mark's vision and commitment: "Mark Featherstone-Witty's OBE award is much deserved and way overdue. His tireless contributions and achievements in performing arts education are nothing short of extraordinary. I heartily congratulate him".
LIPA is now in its eighteenth year. The ethos of collaboration between performers and those who make performance possible has been integral to its success... On average, of the 87 per cent of graduates traced after three years since leaving, 92 per cent are in work. At LIPA, the drive for relevance and work reality is unceasing. Many, who practically help, become Companions of the Institute at graduation. This year eight new Companions include Sam West (actor), Patrick Woodroffe (lighting designer), Don Black (lyricist) and Darcus Beese (President, Island Records).
On receiving the news Mark said: "It's curious to receive an award for something you love doing, rather than something you dislike, but decide you have do anyway. That said, anything that adds to the profile of the institute and Liverpool is good news. When we started LIPA, we wanted to contribute to Liverpool's unique world profile, as well as be a player in local learning. Let's hope our new initiatives and our renovation, adaptation and use of the magnificent building that once was The Liverpool School of Art will be a legacy that lasts and affects future lives."
This September, LIPA opens a primary school and is hoping to receive news that a bid to open a Sixth Form College in 2015 will be given an amber light by the government.