Singer Sir Thomas Allen whose life inspired Billy Elliot steps down as Durham University Chancellor

Over his career Sir Allen he sang more than 50 roles at the Royal Opera House and performed for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee at the Palace Grounds. Credit: Durham University

The opera star whose life inspired the hit film and musical Billy Elliot is stepping down as Durham University Chancellor.

Sir Thomas Allen is one of the University's longest serving chancellor's having been in the role for more than 10 years.

An appeal fund has now been set up in Sir Allen's name to continue his legacy. It will support the university's initiative to make music and choral scholarships more accessible to students from all backgrounds.

A new state-of-the-art Steinway Spirio piano has also been installed in an effort to become an 'All-Steinway' School. Steinway piano's are regarded as the gold-standard of musical instruments.

The Bavarian Government, with the State Opera of Bavaria gave him the title of Kammersanger, a title for distinguished opera singers. Credit: Durham University

Born in Seaham County Durham, Sir Allen attended Robert Richardson Grammar School in Ryhope, before beginning his career with the Welsh National Opera.

Subsequently he won global acclaim for his singing roles and in 1988 received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Durham University, the institution he went on to become Chancellor of.

Over his career Sir Allen sang more than 50 roles at the Royal Opera House and performed for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee at the Palace Grounds.

In 2013 he was awarded the Queen's Medal for Music.

The outgoing chancellor is also an honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music and holds a Fellowship of the Royal College of Music.

Speaking about his time as Chancellor, Sir Allen said: “From day one, ten years ago, I’ve been trying to summon the words to best describe this experience.

"I’m still trying, though I can say briefly that a great part of being Chancellor has been a kind of further education process in the people I’ve met and the things I’ve experienced.

"It has been the greatest honour and privilege, and I shall miss the people and the role terribly.”

Sir Allen will 'bow' out of his role with a final graduation congregation at Durham Cathedral later this month.

A farewell dinner will also take place at Durham Castle.

Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University, Professor Karen O’Brien, said: “It also offers us an opportunity to thank Sir Thomas for his outstanding service to the University as Chancellor for the past ten years.

"He has been, and will continue to be, an inspiration to our staff, students and alumni.”

Durham University will announce its new Chancellor in due course.

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