Coronation Street boss Stuart Blackburn receives honorary degree
Leeds-based Stuart, who is currently at the helm of Britain's longest-running and arguably best-loved soap opera, took up the position at Coronation Street last year, following a two-year term as Producer of Emmerdale.
As well as overseeing the move of 500 cast and crew from their central Manchester studios to a new state-of-the-art studio at MediaCityUK, since joining Coronation Street, Stuart has been responsible for reams of headline-grabbing screen action - including the controversial storylines surrounding the departure of much-loved characters Hayley Cropper and Tina McIntyre.
Stuart, who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Literature for his contribution to the arts, commented: "This award today means absolutely everything. There've been a lot of telly awards and in a way you don't expect them, you aspire to them - but this (honorary award) came completely out of the blue and I don't know whether to laugh, cry or do both!
"Working on Coronation Street is immense - any day of the week 300-400 people are looking to you for answers. It has the most famous cast in the country and a legacy of fifty-three-and-a-half years, so the pressure is immense. But it doesn't matter how many hours I do or how many days I do, I still wake up in the morning and think, as my dad would say - 'it's better than a proper job!'"
Speaking about making the switch from Emmerdale to Coronation Street, Stuart said: "I loved working on Emmerdale and the people there are fantastic. I left after about 18 months and it was my choice, but it was heartbreaking, I should have been there at least another year, maybe two and I felt like a real traitor - but the chance to do Corrie may have never come up again."
He added that one of his favourite storylines he had worked on was during his time at Emmerdale.
"It was about the character Aaron Livesy - a young working class lad, profoundly homophobic - coming to terms with the fact that he was actually gay. We pretend that in this modern world there is no homophobia and that coming out now is easy. Rubbish. It's still incredibly tough for hundreds and thousands of young working class lads and it was a storyline that made a difference to people's lives."
Stuart continued: "There've been several highlights in my career - obviously getting the job at Emmerdale, then getting the job at Coronation Street - getting a BAFTA award this year, but honestly, genuinely, I'm not creeping - the highlight is today - getting this honorary award. It was just so unexpected and overwhelming."
Originally from Keighley and now based in Horsforth, Stuart's roots remain firmly in Leeds as he commutes to Manchester for Coronation Street.
He has written stories and scripts and story-edited for many major soaps and dramas such as The Bill, Eastenders, Casualty and Ballykissangel.
Stuart worked on ITV soap Emmerdale as Storyliner and Story Editor before moving to the Street as Story Editor and latterly Series Story Editor. He returned to Emmerdale in 2011 as Producer, before it was announced in October 2012 that he'd once again return to Britain's most famous fictional street - as Producer - in January 2013.
Before making the move back to Corrie, Stuart oversaw Emmerdale's live hour-long episode to mark the 40th anniversary of the Yorkshire-based soap.
Others receiving honorary degrees from Leeds Metropolitan include: chart-toppers and Leeds Met graduates Piers Aggett and Kesi Dryden, who make up half of the award-winning group Rudimental; former Judge of the High Court of South Africa, Professor Mervyn King; the director of critically-acclaimed films The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Brassed Off, Mark Herman and former Leeds United manager and player, Eddie Gray MBE.
Leeds Metropolitan University Vice Chancellor, Professor Susan Price, said: "Having worked on some of the UK's best-loved television shows - and now at the helm of the UK's longest running soap opera -Stuart's drive, talent and ambition will be of great inspiration to our new graduates, ready to embark on the first steps of their own career ladders. In the last 12 months Stuart's hard work and commitment to Coronation Street, has seen the show reap the rewards with numerous television awards and viewing figures peaking at more than 10 million."