Honorary degree for record label boss

Founder of Revolver Records to be honoured at University ceremony.

Paul Birch, the music mogul who founded independent label Revolver Records, will receive an honorary degree from Birmingham City University next month.

Paul will be handed his Honorary Doctorate by the University’s Chancellor, Sir Lenny Henry on Monday 8 January in a ceremony at Symphony Hall alongside students graduating from the Faculties of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment, and Health, Education and Life Sciences.

As Managing Director of Wolverhampton-based Revolver Records, Paul released more than 6,000 albums since founding the international independent label in 1979. During this time, Paul has released records for artists as diverse as the Stone Roses, Sister Sledge, Jane’s Addiction, Leo Sayer and Diamond Head, as well as releasing reissues for global stars including the Rolling Stones, Miles Davis and the Who.

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, he said: “It’s a huge honour to receive this doctorate in my home city, though I suspect the only people calling me doctor will be my children, who are likely to call me ‘Doctor Dad’. However, my son is about to graduate in business and my daughter in psychology, so like most parents at the graduation ceremony, the only stars in the room are going to be the sons and daughters who have knocked themselves out getting to the start line and have a fantastic achievement to be proud of ahead of exciting careers ahead.”

Born in Croydon, Paul was adopted at six weeks old and grew up in Birmingham. His career began as a DJ on the Northern Soul circuit, and he also worked as a ‘plugger’ for different labels and artists, including The Goodies, Electric Light Orchestra, Eurythmics and Genesis, before setting up his own label. At its height, Revolver Records grew to forty staff members and had representatives in 35 countries, including the US, Canada and Japan.

In addition to his career in music, Paul set up the Revolver Co-Operative in 2011, which has a fast-growing range of Fairtrade coffee, clothing and other ethically-produced products. His coffee scooped victory in the Great Taste Awards for the third year running in 2017 and he was also awarded the Fair Tax mark last year – making it the first food and beverage company working in commodities to receive the award, and the 20th firm in Britain overall.

Revolver is organised as a multi-stakeholder co-operative and it ranks second in the UK for ethics as judged by Ethical Consumer magazine. 25 per cent of the profits from Revolver Coffee are reinvested into producer communities, for example, improving the lives of women and children through better health and education in countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba and Ethiopia.

Meanwhile, Revolver’s Cathedral Coffee is sold by the Diocese of Lichfield with 50p from every sale going to its sister diocese in South Africa, where a community project is helping to transform lives devastated by HIV/AIDs.

Paul added: “If it was ever possible to dedicate a degree, then I would dedicate it to the memory of Manchester’s Anthony Wilson, founder of Factory Records and The Hacienda nightclub. Tony was a big influence on me and like a lot of record people, I have been as much about the politics as I have about the music. So, for me, Simon Cowell and Pete Waterman are probably the real deal. Like Tony, I’ve been more interested in selling my ideas than records.”

Paul lives in Wolverhampton with his wife and three children.