Bernice Law - Oration
Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Bernice Law for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.
Bernice is being honoured today for her outstanding contribution to the regeneration of Liverpool. Bernice was Deputy CEO at the Northwest Regional Development Agency when she was seconded to the Liverpool Culture Company as their Chief Operating Officer from August 2007. In this role she made a vital contribution to the success of Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture, leaving a lasting and positive legacy for the people of Liverpool, particularly through her involvement in the Mann Island Development which includes the Pier Head, the Canal Link and the new Liverpool Museum.
Bernice Law was born the eldest of four children in Northwich in 1957. She excelled academically at Northwich County Grammar School for Girls, becoming Deputy Head Girl and establishing an early reputation for organising events and sorting things out. Despite her success at school, an offer of a place at Leeds University, and her parents’ wishes, she left school intent on a career in local government. Her first job was with the Vale Royal District Council, working in the Rates Department, then in the Chief Executive’s Department, and learning how local government worked. During her 10 years there, she studied part-time, gaining qualifications in public and municipal administration.
In the mid-1980s, Bernice left Vale Royal to join the leisure services department at Warrington Borough Council. Over the next 18 years at Warrington, she consolidated her reputation as the quintessential backroom girl, a fixer, someone who could get things done. After Steve Broomhead was appointed as chief executive in 1997, she was a key member of the team that presided over the transition of the council into an independent unitary authority in 1998. Impressed with her skills and recognising them as complementary to his own, Steve Broomhead appointed her first as assistant chief executive and then deputy chief executive of the Council.
When he left to join the NWDA as chief executive, Bernice spent 8 months as acting chief executive of the council before moving to the NWDA as executive director of operations in 2003 with particular responsibilities for employment, policy, strategy, marketing and communications. This move was greeted with shock at WBC where she was seen as an able and safe pair of hands. But it was convincing evidence that Bernice is happier in an operational role - as the influential behind the scenes fixer rather than the figurehead in the newspaper headlines.
At the NWDA, she had a key input in major developments, including "brokering" the BBC move of several departments to Salford. And she had a particular responsibility delivering regeneration in Liverpool and Merseyside, including investment at Mann Island, the new Museum, the canal link and Liverpool Northshore. Key projects included the Echo Arena and BT Convention Centre, which has already demonstrated an impressive return on investment and the Cruise Liner Terminal which opened in 2007.
In 2007 in Liverpool, it was a time of major political wrangling, fallings-out and controversy in the lead-up to Capital of Culture Year. It was at the time that the Liverpool Culture Company was shifting its focus from planning the 2008 programme to logistically organising the year of events, and it urgently needed someone with a working knowledge of Liverpool who could get things done. Accordingly, Bernice was seconded to the Culture Company as the senior adviser on operational delivery to help ensure that 2008 was a success. Bernice was ideal for this role: ego-free, down to earth, fair-minded, able to smooth ruffled feathers, no political baggage, and able to keep focused on the end result – and this helped to ensure that Liverpool Capital of Culture 2008 was a resounding success with millions of new visitors and a multi-million pound boost to the local economy.
Throughout her career, Bernice has taken on additional roles. For example:
- She is a former director of Warrington Chamber of Commerce
- A former board member of Warrington Collegiate College
- A former primary school governor
- Former member of the Cheshire Advisory Committee for the appointment of magistrates
Having taken early retirement last year, Bernice now serves on the boards of Merseytravel, Marketing Cheshire, and Liverpool & Merseyside Theatres Trust. Her spare time, when she’s not watching Warrington RL and Manchester United, is spent travelling to far-flung places like Alaska with her husband Mitch – who is here today to share in the occasion.
Bernice Law has lived and worked all her life in this region and in the last decade has made a typically understated but immense contribution to the regeneration of Liverpool and Merseyside, quietly but passionately working behind the scenes to see that the investment opportunities were realised and that the Jobs Got Done. Bernice made a difference, and all those concerned about the regeneration of this great city owe her a vote of thanks. The accolades are long overdue.
Thus I have great pleasure in presenting Bernice Law, this most distinguished daughter of our region, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.
Prof Frank Sanderson
Friday 15 July 2011