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Actor Charlotte Riley to receive honor from Durham University

Charlotte Riley, the award-winning actor and founder of The WonderWorks nursery, is to be honoured by Durham University this week.

Riley, who was born in Stockton-on-Tees and studied English at Durham University, will receive an honorary degree (Doctor of Letters).

Alongside a distinguished acting career with acclaimed roles in The Edge of Tomorrow, In The Heart of The Sea, Peaky Blinders and upcoming Amazon Original Series, The Peripheral, Charlotte has dedicated herself to helping families in the film and TV industry by launching The WonderWorks nursery brand.

In 2020, Riley launched a permanent WonderWorks nursery site at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden. The Ofsted registered childcare facility provides quality, flexible care for those working on productions or on the site.

To launch the nursery, Riley and The WonderWorks team wrote an open letter encouraging more industry leaders to help “Keep Families in Film”, garnering widespread support from fellow actors.

Reflecting on this award from the University, Charlotte Riley said:

“I launched The WonderWorks to help make a difference to parents working in the film and television industries and I’m honoured that this has been recognised by the University which means so much to me.

“As an industry we take pride in how well we train our teams, people work so hard in the early years of their career to hone their skills and then just as they are starting to get established, find that they can’t sustain a career in production once they become parents.

“If we want to continue the recent strides forward we have made in telling more diverse stories, we must help parents, and particularly women, stay in the industry.”

As part of her visit to Durham, Charlotte will take part in a live ‘Fireside Chat’ at 14:30 on Thursday 31 March 2022. Places for this free event can be booked online.

Charlotte is one of several honorary degree recipients who will be honoured by the University this week.

Former Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, Mike Barton, will receive a Doctor of Civil Law. Mr Barton, who received a CBE for services to policing in 2019, joined the police force in 1980. In his time, he led Durham Constabulary to four successive outstanding ratings in annual PEEL inspections and the highest crime-detection rates in the country.

Other University alumni being honoured for their achievements are Middlesbrough-born Robert Senior, former CEO Worldwide of advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi – famed for the Cadbury’s ‘Drumming Gorilla’ and Sony Bravia ‘Colour Balls’ commercials, and renewable energy leader, Benj Sykes.

A total of 17 graduation ceremonies will take place in the magnificent setting of Durham Cathedral from Monday 28 March to Friday 1 April, celebrating the academic achievements of 3,600 students from 120 countries.

This will be the first Congregation hosted by Durham University’s new Vice-Chancellor and Warden, Professor Karen O’Brien, who took up her role in January this year.


Professor O’Brien said: “Congregation offers us the renewed opportunity to celebrate all that has been achieved by our students. This is not only in their academic study but also the resilience, determination and adaptation that they have shown in abundance through what has been a very challenging time for us all. We are all so proud of what they have achieved.

“Alongside our students, we’re also delighted to celebrate the outstanding contributions of our honorary graduates and I hope they can be an inspiration to us all. Our spring cohort exemplifies the calibre of leadership Durham sends out into the world, and both the creative and commercial talent we bring back for the benefit of our region.”