Comedian Sally Phillips receives honorary doctorate from UEL for Down’s Syndrome advocacy

PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 November 2017

Sally Phillips  Picture: Nick Harrison/UEL

Sally Phillips Picture: Nick Harrison/UEL

Nick Harrison/UEL

Comedian and actress Sally Phillips has been given an honorary doctorate by the University of East London for her work on behalf of people with Down’s Syndrome.

Sally Phillips at the graduation ceremony Picture: Nick Harrison/UEL
Sally Phillips at the graduation ceremony Picture: Nick Harrison/UEL

She received the award from the university’s school of social sciences, joining hundreds of graduating students at the O2 ceremony.

“Some people want a pair of Louboutins, but I’ve always wanted a doctorate so this is fantastic,” she said.

Sally’s son, Olly, was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome days after his birth 12 years ago.

She said: “Yes, there were some readjustments to make, but it’s been a joy in ways you wouldn’t expect. It’s a far cry from the pessimistic way having a child with Down’s is portrayed.”

Sally Phillips Picture: Nick Harrison/UELSally Phillips Picture: Nick Harrison/UEL

Last year, she wrote and presented a BBC2 documentary which looked at the ethics, science and stories behind a new pre-natal test for Down’s Syndrome.

She explained: “I wanted to bring about a public debate about these ‘search and destroy’ techniques, and the society we’re creating. Surely we want one that is inclusive, welcoming and enriched by people with Down’s Syndrome.”

The actress, best known for her roles as Shazzer in the Bridget Jones films and Tilly in BBC sitcom Miranda, first got her big break in 1997 with a role in I’m Alan Partridge. She has also appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival nine times.

Addressing the graduates during the ceremony, she said: “No matter what you achieve you’ll never been just your grades or job, you are not your grades. Each of you is unique. And please, please remember to keep a helping hand extended to those who can’t achieve what you’ve done today.”

Sally explained she is going to take the honorary doctorate as encouragement to continue to advocate for people with Down’s Syndrome, adding that she had been inspired by the late Lord Brian Rix, UEL’s first chancellor.

She said: “The commitment he showed to being an advocate for his daughter, Shelley, and others like her with Down’s Syndrome, is something to be celebrated by UEL.”

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