Delia Derbyshire To Be Honoured With Posthumous PhD

Electronic music pioneer and Doctor Who theme co-composer Delia Derbyshire is to be honoured with a posthumous honorary doctorate from Coventry University.

Derbyshire crafted a new wave of sounds and arrangements in the 1960s and 70s and helped pave the way for other women to work in music production. She grew up in Coventry during World War II and made her first break into the industry as a trainee studio manager at the BBC. While there, she encountered the experimental Radiophonic Workshop, where she transformed Ron Grainer’s score into the Doctor Who theme. Grainer – rather unwillingly –  is still officially credited as the tune’s sole writer because of the broadcaster’s policies at the time.

The under-appreciated artist passed away in 2001, aged 62 and is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in electronic music, having inspired the likes of the Chemical Brothers and Sonic Boom.


Mark Ayres, a composer and sound designer at the Radiophonic Workshop, said:

“Any composer of my generation with an interest in electronic sound and music cannot fail to have been influenced by Delia’s talent. It is very fitting that Delia is receiving this posthumous honorary doctorate from Coventry University. Delia was proud of her roots in the city and deeply affected by the damage wreaked upon it during the second world war, though much inspired by the sounds she heard around her during that time.”

Colin Blackburn, Derbyshire’s partner of 21 years, said:

“Delia would be really excited by the developments in electronic music. Digital technology is finally catching up with what she managed to achieve manually in the 1960s using the most rudimentary of equipment.”

Delia Derbyshire will be awarded an honorary PhD from Coventry University on Monday.

  • FrancoPabloDiablo

    Damn right! About time too! Overlooked in her lifetime but thankfully recognised shortly before her untimely death. Delia’s ooh-ee-ooh is classic compared to the terrible latest Murray Gold atrocity. I won’t be watching the new show but hope at least Chibs has the sense to get that Derbyshire sound back.

    • bar

      I hate to say it dear Franco, but the main reason she wasn’t recognised is she was female 😉 But yes, some things have gone too far. The boys in our youth group definitely have a tougher time than the girls, and less optimistic prospects.
      I wish I shared your hope about Chibs and his choice of sound. I too would be glad of less Murray Gold schmaltz.
      I am going to take it on myself to tease you mercilessly about the best bits you’re missing… though I suspect you will respond with the cringeworthy bits you’re glad you missed!
      Room for all good arguments on the DWC 🙂

      • reTARDISed

        Absolutely: BBC staffers, and female ones in particular, got a very raw deal in those days… I doubt that Chibnall will want the Derbyshire version (which one?) back, sadly. It’s much too atmospheric and subtle (more obviously minor key than any of its successors). I do wonder, though, about awarding a “posthumous doctorate”: more a gimmick than a meaningful award. How do you physically confer a doctorate on a deceased person (graduands need to accept and respond to the honour)? However, if it’s now possible, I plan to confer a peerage on Verity Lambert!