East End actress Ann Mitchell says her honorary degree means a great deal to her family.

The 77-year-old who grew up in Stepney Green was made a Doctor of Arts by the University of East London at a ceremony on Thursday, November 3 at The O2.

Despite having graced the stage thousands of time she said she was very nervous about walking up to accept her scroll, awarded for her contribution to film, theatre and television.

“It feels a bit like a first night – exciting but unreal,” said Ann who plays Cora Cross in EastEnders. She has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for her performance in Through The Leaves.

She was the first ever scholarship student to the East 15 Acting School in Loughton and said of the honour: “It means a huge amount because I come from a background where my beloved grandmother couldn’t read or write and from a family that struggled and didn’t have opportunities to have education.

“They fought hard for me to have the opportunities I have had so this means a great deal not just for me but for my family and my community.”

Ann, who now lives in Kentish Town, had this advice for students from UEL.

“The main thing when you come into the arts is to have great courage and to learn to deal with rejection. Don’t wait for the phone to ring, create your own work and go outside a narrow circle and learn to serve society.”

Dean of UEL’s School Of Arts And Digital Industries Prof Simon Robertshaw said: “She found it quite difficult from time to time trying to prove her worth as an actress and she showed real perseverance and adversity getting through that. That is great inspiration to our students.”

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