Hundreds gather to celebrate life of Lord Rix, UEL’s first Chancellor
Memorial service pays tribute to Lord Rix’s contributions to the arts and disability advocacy
Members of the University of East London (UEL) community joined luminaries from the arts, politics and charities at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden on Tuesday for a memorial service to honour the life of Lord Rix, the well-known actor-manager, campaigner for people with disabilities and first Chancellor of UEL.
UEL’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Joughin, and Professor Andy Minnion, director of UEL’s RIX Centre, and were among the attendees at the service, where there were performances by cellist Steven Isserlis and singer Ben Watt, and readings by actors Nigel Planer and Rory Kinnear. A video produced by the RIX Centre was also played.
Professor Minnion said, “It was a genuine celebration of Lord Rix. The service celebrated his extraordinary career in the theatre and the arts, but at the same time it was a celebration of Lord Rix’s extraordinary commitment to people with learning disabilities.
“There was a playful spirit, a positive spirit. Lord Rix was an extraordinary man and he’s left an extraordinary legacy, which includes UEL. The RIX Centre and our international work carries on that tradition.”
Lord Rix died on 20 August 2016 at the age of 92. He served as UEL's Chancellor from 1997 to 2012.
In 2004, he established the RIX Centre, founded to explore and develop ways of using new technologies to transform and enrich the lives of people with learning disabilities.
The Centre has enhanced the lives of thousands of people with learning disabilities and their loved ones through its pioneering and innovative multimedia technology and advocacy.
At the end of the service, a plaque commemorating Lord Rix was unveiled (see photo above with RIX technical assistant Ajay Choski, UEL's first employee with learning disabilities). The plaque will be a permanent fixture at the church.
Lord Rix was born the son a Hull ship owner in Cottingham on 27 January 1924. He joined a touring theatre company as a trainee actor at the age of 18 and made his West End debut in Twelfth Night in 1943.
In 1947 he formed his own theatre company and was associated with the Whitehall Theatre from 1944 until 1969. As an actor-manager, he also became increasingly well-known on TV.
In 1980 Lord Rix retired from acting and became the Secretary-General of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults (Mencap) and in 1987 became its Chairman.
In 1977 he was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and was knighted in 1986 for his services to charity. In 1992 his tireless work was further recognised when he was created a life peer.
Lord Rix became the first Chancellor of the University of East London on 16 July 1997 after becoming acquainted with UEL while working at the Stratford office of Mencap.