King Short Shirt to receive UWI honorary degree


King Short Shirt

Antiguan Calypso icon Sir McClean ‘King Short Shirt’ Emanuel will be the country’s lone recipient of an honorary degree from the UWI Five Islands campus, as part of the wider UWI’s upcoming Class of 2023 graduation ceremonies, starting next month.

The announcement came on Saturday afternoon in a media statement from the UWI, in which it was revealed that King Short Shirt is part of a notable list of recipients from the entertainment sector across the four landed campuses.

Soca star Alison Hinds is set to be honoured by the Cave Hill campus, Trinidad & Tobago-born R&B singer/actress Heather Headley by the St Augustine campus and Jamaican reggae legend Beres Hammond by the Mona campus.

The other honourees are Ian Hickling and Trisha Tannis at Cave Hill, Baroness Floella Benjamin and Lawrence Scott at St Augustine, Professor E. Dale Abel, Lascelles Chin (posthumous), Rachel Manley and Ambassador Audrey Marks at Mona, and Dr Patrick Anthony and Dame Janet Gwennett Bostwick at the Global Campus.

The annual tradition of conferring honorary degrees, the statement said, will “commemorate the outstanding contributions made by these individuals to their communities and the wider society”. It also coincides this year with the UWI’s 75th jubilee celebrations.

In the statement, King Short Shirt – who has amassed more than two dozen titles as a fierce competitor – is described as a colossus of calypso, having won the competition 15 times in Antigua and Barbuda, becoming the first to win three successive competitions and also the only to boast three separate Calypso ‘hattricks’.

It was noted too that, since entering the calypso arena in 1962, the 81-year-old has copped the Caribbean Calypso competition seven times, as well as winning seven Road March crowns.

For several decades, King Short Shirt has thrilled audiences in Antigua and Barbuda and across the region with hits such as ‘Lamentation’, ‘Tourist Leggo’, ‘Power and Authority’, ‘Nobody Go Run Me’ and the personal favourite of many Antiguans, ‘Vivian Richards’.

He gained so much popularity over the years that “he has been twice invited by the Prime Ministers of fellow CARICOM countries to their Independence celebrations: Belize in 1981, where he performed ‘A New Beginning’ (a song he wrote especially for the occasion), and Saint Lucia in 2023”.

Born and raised in Antigua’s Point community, King Short Shirt was a champion for social justice, with many of his songs hitting out at oppression, poverty, and politics.

He is held in high regard by a wide cross-section of Antiguan and Barbudan society and can count figures including Prime Minister Gaston Browne and cricket legend Sir Vivian Richards among his fans.

The veteran retired from the competitive Calypso scene in 1994 after a more than 30-year career but continues to write and sing, acknowledging the difficulty in leaving the art form altogether.

He received a knighthood from his government in 2014 for his contributions to the promotion of Calypso, and calls have repeatedly been made – including from the aforementioned PM Browne – for that status to be elevated to National Hero.

If those desires are to be fulfilled in his lifetime, King Short Shirt would join Sir Viv as Antigua and Barbuda’s only living national heroes, while he would become the first entertainer to receive the country’s highest honour.

King Short Shirt, along with the other honourees, will join the hundreds of students across the UWI campuses who are graduating and marking the end of their studies.

The Five Islands Campus kicks off the graduation ceremonies on October 7, followed by Cave Hill on October 21, St Augustine from October 26-28, Mona from November 3-4, and the Global Campus on November 11.