Beatrix Campbell OBE has received an honorary degree from Northumbria University, Newcastle, for her lifelong and outstanding service to equal opportunities.
Beatrix – or Bea as she is known – was born in Carlisle in 1947. Aged 14 she took part in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s march from Aldermaston to London in protest against nuclear weapons, and was still a teenager when she joined the Communist Party.
On leaving school, Bea worked as a reporter at the Morning Star, she recalls being ‘intoxicated’ by the women's liberation movement and, in 1972, co-founded the influential Red Rag: a Magazine of Women’s Liberation and Marxism. It defined feminism as “the political movement which emerges as the women’s response to their own oppression”. It continued to flourish for the rest of the decade.
In the early 1980s she was involved in a long occupation and strike at the London magazine Time Out to defend equal pay and with most of the staff formed the co-operatively-owned City Limits magazine. She was also a columnist on Marxism Today – the publication that coined the term ‘Thatcherism’. The feminist publisher Virago commissioned her to reimagine George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier.
Bea’s career as a writer, feminist, playwright, broadcaster and social commentator spans nearly five decades and is broad reaching. Bea stood twice as a Green Party candidate in local elections in the London Borough of Camden and for Hampstead and Kilburn in the 2010 parliamentary elections.
Bea has received several academic honours including honorary doctorates conferred by Salford University, Oxford Brookes, University of Bedfordshire and The Open University for her works on crime, community, gender and children’s welfare.
In her Fawcett Society Prize-winning book, The Iron Ladies, she casts a curious eye on the Conservative Party’s historic base among women voters. In Goliath she dissects Britain’s dangerous places. And in Agreement! The State, Conflict and Change in Northern Ireland, she analyses the egalitarian peace treaty that was crafted out of decades of armed conflict.
Her work has gained several awards, including the Cheltenham Literature Festival Prize in 1984, the Fawcett Society Prize in 1987 and the First Time Producers Award in 1990. In 2011 Bea was named by The Guardian in its list of Britain’s Top 300 Intellectuals and one of the 100 most influential gay people of the year in the 2012 World Pride Power List.
Bea’s latest book, End of Equality published in 2014, has been hailed as ‘beautiful, heart-swelling prose’, but is uncompromising in its assertion that the new world order is, in fact, the enemy of equality.
Speaking of her Honorary Degree, Bea said: “This is a poignant honour for me, at a time when a government was prepared to contemplate the restoration of selection and grammar schools. I failed the 11-plus, and I take this honour as a tribute not only to me but to all of us - that is, most of my generation - who didn’t go to grammar schools, who harvested creativity out of humiliation, often supported by a great commitment in universities such as Northumbria to open and continuing access to education.”
In 2016, Northumbria staff, students and graduates received over 100 design and media awards, commendations and prizes.
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