On LIPA Graduation Day 2006 my fellow Companions to be inducted at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall included the late actress Lynda Bellingham, motivational speaker Sir Ken Robinson, electronics pioneer Dr. Jörg Sennheiser and actor Terence Stamp, honoured in his unavoidable absence. We all lined up for the traditional pre-ceremony photograph with Paul, before taking our places in the procession into the hall.
The format is virtually the same each year, with the new Companions and other VIP guests all gathering in the Philly’s Green Room ahead of the ceremony to be greeted by LIPA CEO Mark Featherstone-Witty. The first big moment occurs when Paul arrives, having usually flown up to Liverpool from his home in Sussex that morning, often in the middle of a big summer tour. It’s always a privilege to meet him there, while he always makes sure to greet old friends as well as LIPA staffers.
Paul Gives the Graduation Certificates Out
During the course of the next three hours, well over two hundred students will receive their Graduation certificates from Paul, while Mark introduces each new Companion at regular intervals, upon which they are required to make a speech.
By sod’s law I had to follow one of Britain’s most celebrated orators, Sir Ken Robinson (who sadly passed away in August 2020), who made such a brilliant, inspiring and humorous speech that I thought I may as well pack up and go home. But somehow I got through mine unscathed, with references to how the Beatles and Paul had influenced my life and career, working at record labels and other companies before starting SongLink, before ending with some words of encouragement to all the graduates along the lines of, “Follow your instincts in choosing your goals, if I can do it, so can you.”
Macca Liked My Speech
I must have made some impact on Paul as during the reception afterwards he said to me, “I didn’t know you’d done all that!” In other years we might discuss the latest SongLink Prize winners and nominees. For one day each year Paul also makes a point of spending time with each songwriter student during the Easter term, conducting short one-to one sessions during which he’s even been known to start co-writing a new song with some of them. Now that’s what I call integrity and dedication, otherwise known as being a “mensch”.
Happy birthday Paul!
What had d
David done for Paul to be so surprised? Find out in David Stark’s great book:
It’s All Too Much
It’s All Too Much is the unique memoir by music industry veteran David Stark, who grew up in north London during the 1960s as a dedicated Beatles fan and was lucky enough to meet his musical heroes on various memorable occasions. From gate-crashing the Yellow Submarine film premiere in 1968 (aged just fifteen) and ending up sitting directly behind the group, to meeting all of them individually in some extraordinary circumstances, David has some highly entertaining stories about his many Beatles encounters which have never been told before.