Shelagh Fogarty

Presented by Roger Phillips

Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Shelagh Fogarty for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.  

This is a truly civic university, firmly rooted in this extraordinary city, and its defining ethos comprises three deceptively simple yet very powerful words: dream, plan, achieve. 

Each year at Graduation, the University's highest honour – an Honorary Fellowship – is bestowed on a select band of individuals outside the University, in recognition of their outstanding achievement in a given field or profession, and who personify and inspire others to 'dream, plan, and achieve.' 

We propose Shelagh for an outstanding contribution to journalism over almost 25 years as a news and current affairs radio and television presenter with the BBC. A multiple Sony Radio award-winner, she is renowned for bringing hard-hitting news stories to a mass audience.  

She dismantles complex political scenarios with a combination of intelligent insight and sometimes irreverent humour. A skilled exponent of the live on-air gear change, she has been described as "professional, clever, crisp, funny and warm." Fellow broadcaster Peter Allen has said that the most enjoyable thing about working with Shelagh is that she is able to almost forget that she is "on air". She doesn't so much interview as have extremely insightful conversations. 

As a child of Irish parents and a Liverpudlian upbringing, it may come as no surprise to us here in this, her home city, that she so many fellow Liverpudlians, 'The Gift of the Gab', but she certainly applies it with a charm and a fluency that is uniquely her own. 

The youngest of seven children, she was born in Anfield in 1966 and educated at the Mary Help of Christians Convent Grammar School in Croxteth, now St. John Bosco Arts College. Shelagh still credits the influence of the Salesian Sisters with their own emphasis on fulfilling ones potential as being an inspirational influence in her life.  

After graduating in Spanish, French and Portuguese from Durham University in 1989, Shelagh became a cub reporter for BBC news and current affairs. She trained on several radio and television channels including BBC Radio Merseyside, Radio 4 and BBC North West Tonight. She worked as both reporter and presenter here in her home city on BBC Radio Merseyside. Here too, she began her breakfast show career and the discipline of the hideously early alarm call, occasionally swathed in her dad Willy Fogarty's more comfortable cardie, in lieu of a longed for but much missed duvet. 

Fortunately, as I well know, radio is more forgiving of our wardrobe choices than that other demanding medium, television. Clearly a sucker for punishment, her move to network Radio 5 eventually involved yet more early alarm calls, as, with Nicky Campbell, she co-presented the breakfast show for 7 years. The pair won two prestigious Sony Gold Awards during this time. 

Since 2011, she has thrown the alarm clock away...or more likely beaten it into a pulp with a hammer, and now presents the lunchtime show on Radio 5 Live, to great acclaim. With the possible exception of the unscheduled visit by a mouse to the 5 Live studio earlier this year, few world events or personalities have daunted Shelagh.  

She excels at the live outside broadcast. She has anchored coverage of the US presidential elections, and the funeral of Pope John Paul the Second, the latter from a makeshift studio on a roof in St Peter's Square. She was amongst the first journalists at the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, and to reach Japan following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Her sensitivity to the essential humanity of stories like these is exemplary. She never forgets that behind the headlines there are individual stories of despair and hope. And so we don't forget either.  

She has reported on the worst and best of human behaviour. From the James Bulger murder trial and the Madrid train bombings to the 2012 Paralympic Games. Shelagh was at the extraordinary 2009 memorial service at Anfield to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Hillsborough. It precipitated the establishment of the Hillsborough Independent Panel and its shattering findings. On that day, amongst all the detail and emotion, Shelagh was struck by, and reported, the gentle flight on 96 balloons as they floated above the heads of bereaved families on the famous Kop.  

During her career, she has interviewed many notable individuals, from former American astronaut Buzz Aldrin, to the inventor of the Internet Tim Berners-Lee. She has met Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African campaigner, and friend of Steven Biko, Donald Woods. 

But perhaps her most unlikely inside-outside broadcast, as it were, came when she presented the breakfast show from her mother Mary's parlour. And why not? It is all a far cry...well except for the family parlour....from the six-year old Shelagh's career ambition to work in a post office.  

And so, it is with great pleasure that I present Shelagh Fogarty, this distinguished, this delightful daughter of our city, for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.