Jools and Lynda Topp were presented with honorary doctorates in the arts from the University of Waikato at the graduation ceremony 0n October 20th 2011 in Hamilton.
Abridged citation for Jools and Lynda Topp Honorary Doctorate
The University of Waikato is pleased to bestow its most prestigious award of Honorary Doctorate on Jools and Lynda Topp – comedians, singers and social activists for more than 30 years.
Born in Huntly and raised on the family farm at Ruawaro, they grew up believing they could achieve anything in life. They were singing at parties by the time they were five, had their first guitars at 12 and under the guidance of their mother Jean, honed their country and western skills before leaving the Waikato for a short career in the New Zealand Army, and then Auckland.
They began busking downtown on a Friday night and their popularity steadily grew. It was clear that these country and western singing, yodelling, acting and dancing lesbian twin sisters weren’t just funny; they had a social conscience.
Jools and Lynda were high-profile opponents of the 1981 Springbok rugby tour, strong proponents of homosexual law reform, and vocal campaigners for Maori land rights and Nuclear-Free New Zealand.
They’ve toured New Zealand many times for sell-out shows, sometimes with their famous caravan in tow. Overseas their many performances have included appearances at the Montreal Comedy Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, London seasons at The Drill Hall, Whelans in Dublin and numerous Australian tours, including a spot at the World Cup Rugby Finals in Sydney 2004.
They’ve made more than a dozen television shows and recorded eight albums. Their movie, Untouchable Girls was released in 2009 and immediately broke records for best opening day and weekend in New Zealand’s movie history. The documentary charts the twins’ life and highlights major social and political movements that helped shaped us as a nation. The film also tracked Jools’ diagnosis, treatment and recovery from breast cancer.
The characters that Lynda and Jools play have become our friends as they affirm and challenge our identity –Camp Mother and Camp Leader, Ken and Ken, Raylene and Brenda, the Bowling Ladies and socialites Prue and Dilly Ramsbottom. It’s a unique form of performing art. They are embraced by the most conservative audiences while never softening their outspoken stance as they continue to make acutely observed work in and about ‘our place’. It is testament to their skill, commitment and generosity of vision.