Florence Welch has received an honorary fellowship from London’s University of the Arts. Welch was a student at the university but dropped out after her foundation year to pursue her music with Florence + The Machine.
In an emotional speech, the singer spoke about her pride at receiving the fellowship after the disappointment of not completing her first degree.
She also used her acceptance speech to discuss the importance of the arts and why they’re needed now more than ever.
“I didn’t think this would ever happen”, Welch said after receiving her degree. “As you can tell, I’m so honored to receive this. As you may know, I was born in Camberwell and the art college loomed very large in my imagination, even before I attended.
“Growing up in Camberwell, everyone who I thought was interesting or cool or who were in my favourite bands seemed to have gone to Camberwell Arts College”, she added. “But much to my mother’s dismay, as a patron of higher education herself, I stepped straight out of school into working in the nearest bar.
“Rather than applying for any university, I just wanted to be in a band but at that point in my life there really was no band…it was almost the imaginary there was just a lot of drinking. After a year of that and feeling increasingly lost, I tried to apply to Art College.”
“I’m so happy that they [took me]. I have to say, without that space to create and dream in that foundation year, and the structure and sanctuary it provided me, I would not be the artist I am today.”
Welch went on to explain how she took a year out after her foundation year to see if her band “would go anywhere”. She continued: “I was always incredibly sad to not have completed my degree, so I cannot tell you what this means to me.”
The last part of her speech was dedicated to explaining the importance of the arts. “With so much talk about what is essential and nonessential over the last few years, the essentialness of art can never be denied,” Welch continued.
“It is a life-saving force capable of making sense of the senseless and expressing the un-expressible. Please never forget that as you move out into the world that needs artists now more than ever,” she told other graduates at the ceremony.
Earlier this year, Florence + The Machine scored their fourth Number One album with Dance Fever. Florence Welch’s band’s fifth studio album beat Kendrick Lamar‘s Mr Morale & The Big Steppers to the top spot. The band’s previous chart toppers include 2009 debut Lungs, follow up Ceremonials and 2015’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.