From Doctor Who to 2 Tone – University celebrates Coventry’s music heritage

University news

Thursday 16 November 2017

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Coventry’s cultural heritage spanning 2 Tone to Doctor Who will be celebrated this month as the University honours a history of contributions to the city.

Coventry-born Delia Derbyshire, a musical pioneer and creator of the iconic Doctor Who theme will receive a posthumous honour on Monday – 16 years after her death and in recognition of her contribution to electronic music.

Pete Chambers, music historian and writer who helped cement Coventry’s place in the emergence of 2 Tone, will also receive an honorary degree on November 20 for his significant contribution to the city’s music heritage.

An honorary doctorate in arts will be presented to photographer, Maghanbhai Patel who set up his first studio in the city in 1951, and held his first retrospective exhibition looking back on a history of Coventry last year.

Delia Ann Derbyshire, born in Coventry on May 5 1937, was a pioneer of electronic music. Growing up in the city during the Blitz, Delia’s unique sonic palette was directly influenced by the sounds of air raid sirens she was surrounded by as a child – memories which stayed with her throughout her life.

Highly academic, she won a scholarship to study maths and music at the University of Cambridge, and began experimenting with new and innovative abstract sounds.

Despite her talent she struggled to find work in the industry, being told by Decca records that it would not employ women in its studios. She turned to teaching but did not give up and eventually moved to the experimental BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1962. 

It was here she created her most influential sounds, including the iconic Doctor Who theme music; and grabbed the attention of musicians including Paul McCartney who asked her to create a backing track for the song, Yesterday.

But Delia still failed to receive widespread credit for her work and died largely unrecognised in 2011 at the age of 64. She has since been celebrated as an electronic music pioneer and major influence on modern sounds.

She will be honoured in her home city the same year that the BBC takes on its first female Doctor, and as Coventry awaits news of the City of Culture 2021 bid.

Pete Chambers was born in Brays Lane, Stoke on October 20 1956. A ska music fan, he grew up watching bands play in the city and was at the heart of the emergence of 2 Tone at the former Lanchester Polytechnic.

Pete started writing music reviews for the city’s newspapers in 1981 and in 1985 helped organise charity concert, CovAid. In 2004 he wrote the first book on Coventry’s music history, going on to publish six more.

He is behind preservation projects and schemes to support emerging musicians – including bringing live music back to the former Students Union in celebration of the formative 2 Tone artists who played there in the 1980s.

He later set up the Coventry Walk of Fame in Priory Place and was instrumental in launching the Coventry Music Museum. In September 2016 he was awarded a British Empire Medal in recognition of his efforts.

Pete said:


"To receive an honorary doctorate from my own city for my music contribution, from a place I have had connections with for 46 years, just makes me so very, very proud.”


The honours will be presented as thousands of Coventry University students receive their degrees against the backdrop of Coventry Cathedral.

Gavin Kibble, who set up the Coventry Foodbank in 2010 will receive an honorary degree for business administration in recognition of his work helping thousands of people access food relief and emergency supplies. 

John Latham, Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University, said:

“We are incredibly proud to be able to honour the efforts and amazing contributions these individuals have made within their fields here in Coventry, regionally and internationally over many years.


They mark our city’s rich heritage and are a true inspiration to so many young people starting out on their careers after studying with us. It is fitting that we welcome them to our growing university community as we congratulate each of our graduating students before they move to the next stage of their lives.”


For further press information, please contact Hannah Smith, press officer at Coventry University, on +44 (0)24 7765 8352 or at