Tuesday, July 5, 2022
1Burke to get honorary degree from uni that banned him

Burke to get honorary degree from uni that banned him

By Cara Sulieman

SCOTTISH playwright Gregory Burke is to receive an honorary degree from his old university – despite being banned from the campus for battering another student.

The author of Black Watch was only allowed to visit Stirling University for lectures and to go to the library after attacking a man who looked at him “the wrong way.”

At the time, the fight caused outrage and led to calls for him to be expelled from the university all together.

But Burke left after two years of his politics and economics course and ended up working in a series of low-paid jobs before he started his writing career.

The award-winning playwright blames his upbringing in Dunfermline on the culture shock he experienced at university.

He said: “I got banned from the campus for a fight. I’m not going to apologise for that. Coming from Dunfermline, if someone looked at you squint, you went across and battered them. That was it. I just done it.

“I was just the same as everybody I knew. My friends have all done well for themselves.

“When we were younger, we were not wild, not criminal, but we were brought up in that culture. If somebody was wide with you, you fought them.

“What you looking at?”

“University was one of the first places where I encountered people who weren’t like that. They might have been looking at you because they liked what you had on. Whereas I still thought: what are you looking at? That was a culture shock for me.”

The degree has come as a shock for many of the alumni and other recipients of honorary degrees from the university.

Dennis Canavan, former MP and MSP, received an honour from Stirling last year, and thinks Burke should apologise for his actions.

He said: “He should apologise for what he has done in the past and show some contrition. I would hope he could show some remorse for what he had done and learn from past mistakes.

“But I am sure the university, by offering him this honorary degree, are not condoning such violent conduct but are right to recognise Burke’s artistic achievement.”

Honoured despite past

The institution has defended its decision, saying that his work deserves to be honoured despite his past.

A spokesman for the university said: “This happened a long time ago and we think it’s only fair that everybody is given a second chance in life.

“The appropriate action was taken at the time and any award now, which is almost 20 years later, is based on his achievements since then.”

Gagarin Way, the playwright’s first play, opened at the Fringe Festival to critical acclaim.

Black Watch

But his most famous work to date is Black Watch, which has performed in London, New York, Los Angeles and Sydney, after his debut at the Edinburgh Festival in 2006.

He had since won the Writers’ Guild Award for Best new Play for Black Watch.

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