My final column: An honorary degree, and a nod to Suffolk's superb musical talent

stephen foster graduation

Stephen Foster received an honorary degree from the University of Suffolk - Credit: University of Suffolk

It was the stuff that dreams are made of. Last Friday afternoon I became a Fellow of the University Of Suffolk in recognition of my commitment to the county’s music and the arts scene.

The ceremony took place on the Ipswich waterfront and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. In this, my final look back at my radio career to date, I’d like to share with you my acceptance speech:

'It gives me enormous pleasure to receive an honorary degree. Thanks to the senate of the university for this award and to the Chancellor for presenting it to me.

To be recognised in this way is a big thrill. As a teenager back in the 1970s I could never have imagined that well over 40 years later I’d be getting such a prestigious award.

I’ve often been told I’m something of a cheerleader for music and the arts in Suffolk. When I began my broadcasting career the county was regarded by many as a cultural backwater.

Certainly that was the music industry view and from the outset I was determined to give local musicians a platform on the radio and later in print so their talents could, at the very least, be fully appreciated by the good people of East Anglia.

Eventually the message did get through to London that, far from being a backwater, Suffolk is a creative force, it had been for a very long time and I hope it will be forever. I remember the sense of pride when former Ipswich schoolboy Nik Kershaw put the county town on the music map.

Most Read

For many years he remained our one big success story. The local scene went from strength to strength and it came as no surprise to me when 10 years ago Framingham’s Ed Sheeran burst onto the scene. The rest, as they say, is history.

I used to watch Nik Kershaw during his formative years playing in pubs with bands like Half Pint Hog and Fusion and recall my early interviews with Ed Sheeran backstage at Suffolk festivals when he was, quite literally, playing to one man and his dog.

There have of course been several other Suffolk successes but most of the hundreds of musicians I’ve championed have been local heroes and national recognition has passed them by. My award goes out to every single person involved on the Suffolk music scene past and present. As I speak, the funeral is taking place of Stan from Ipswich ska group The Downsetters - his loss much felt by all in the music community.

I must thank all my local radio bosses who supported my passion for music and the arts and recognised how important it was and still is to the Suffolk community.

A special mention for the late Ivan Howlett - the founding father of BBC Radio Suffolk - who was Suffolk through and through and loved hearing local music on air.

What this magnificent town is missing is a state-of-the-art music and entertainment venue. We do have have long established places like The Regent and The Corn Exchange which many moons ago became concert halls but it wasn’t what they were originally built for.

The time has surely come to look at building a multi-purpose venue like for example The Sage at Gateshead on the banks of the River Tyne. There’s surely room for something similar here on the Waterfront.

While I’ve been busy down the decades highlighting the sterling work of others I have been lucky to have had family and friends cheering me on. My mother and father, Jan and David Foster, my partner Maggie, my son Joe and my sister and brother-in-law Claire and Ian Addicott have been hugely supportive and I will be forever grateful.

I must congratulate all my fellow graduands today. All your family and friends are so proud of you. I wish you well in your future careers and endeavours and would urge you to follow your heart. That’s what I did. There will inevitably be bumps in the road - there always are - but give everything you do your best shot and as they say in football circles don’t leave anything in the dressing room.

Thanks for listening and all the very best to everyone at the University Of Suffolk - a gleaming jewel in Suffolk’s crown.’

I very much hope you’ve enjoyed my regular columns this year. Many thanks to editor Brad Jones for giving me the opportunity to reflect on my life so far on the microphone. I have not finished yet. I am thoroughly enjoying my weekly show on Radio Caroline, reporting on football and speedway for BBC Radio Suffolk and my new roles as Vice Chairman of Hospital Radio Ipswich and Chairman of the Ipswich Jazz And Blues Club.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter