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Honorary Degree Orations
Public Orator, Professor Terence Kavanagh presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony held on Friday 14 July at 10.30am
Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, honoured guests, Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen
David Mellor has been one of Britain’s finest designers for more than half a century. Although it is probable that only a few of you will be familiar with his work it is almost certain that his work has had some impact on your daily lives. As an example, those of you who travelled here by road today, on your way to Loughborough, will have encountered traffic lights at junctions. Those traffic lights are the direct descendents, hardly modified, of David Mellor’s designs for his innovative national traffic light system that the Ministry of Transport commissioned from him in the 1960s when he was still only in his mid-thirties!
David was born in 1930 in Sheffield, the heart of the ‘Steel Industry’ at that time. He attended Sheffield College of Art and later went on to study at the Royal College of Art in London. It is not surprising that his Sheffield background gave him a particular affinity for metalwork. His approach from the outset was to create beautiful and functional artefacts whether as one-off handmade pieces or designs developed for mass production.
In the 1960s he became the youngest person ever to receive recognition for his contribution to design by being named a Royal Designer to Industry. But being a designer was not a sufficient role alone to meet his ambitions and at the end of that decade David opened the first of his retail shops in Sloane Square, London – its still there today and continues to thrive. He quickly became internationally known for his imaginative approach to retailing in terms of display and merchandising as he introduced to a new and increasingly adventurous consumer objects for the kitchen that looked good and worked.
David Mellor’s approach to design has been to some extent that of the craftsman, in the way he has focused on the effective use of materials and making techniques and his insistence on the highest standards of environment and working conditions for himself and his employees. To achieve this it was necessary for him to control the manufacturing process and therefore to build appropriate working environments. His first at Broom Hall, near the heart of Sheffield, for his studio and workshops and then in 1990 with ‘The Round Building’ set in the Peak National Park at Hathersage in Derbyshire where his cutlery factory is now housed. Collaborating closely with a number Britain’s best architects David has produced buildings of the highest quality. It is not surprising that they have won numerous architectural awards. And a new Visitor Centre will open this year where you will be able to see for yourselves his work in the new David Mellor Design Museum.
In recognition of his services to design the Queen honoured him with a CBE in 2001.
David Mellor has been unusual, in this country, because he has successfully combined the activities of a maker with those of commercial entrepreneur. He has demonstrated over his long career all the diverse talents to operate as a designer, manufacturer and retailer, seeing his function as controlling a product through all stages of production from concept to customer.
There is the pejorative notion today that ‘Made in Britain’ cannot succeed against fierce international competition. David has proven that this does not have to be the case. He serves as a great inspiration to a new generation of entrepreneurs many of whom, we are sure, are graduating from Loughborough this summer.
Chancellor I have the honour to present to you, and to the University, David Mellor for the degree of DOCTOR OF TECHNOLOGY, honoris causa.
And I invite his son, Corin Mellor, to accept the award on his behalf.