SINGER songwriter, Holly Johnson, has been awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts by Solent University.

He said: "Receiving this award was quite unexpected but quite exciting! I’ve had many career highlights – three number one singles, meeting my heroes like Andy Warhol and David Bowie and being in a Hollywood movie – but today is a particularly special one I think!"

Holly is best known as the lead vocalist of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, a band that achieved massive commercial success in the mid-1980s with Relax, Two Tribes and the Power of Love.

Johnson penned many of the hits from the Frankie years and enjoyed success as a solo artist with the hit album ‘Blast’, which reached number 1 in 1989. Subsequent solo albums include ‘Hollelujah’, ‘Dreams that Money Can’t Buy’, ‘Soulsteam’ and the critically acclaimed ‘Europa’.

Learning that he was HIV positive in 1991, Holly temporarily withdrew from public life and returned to his first love, painting. His works have been exhibited at the Tate Liverpool and the Royal Academy. He has also contributed to Modern Painters and the Paul Smith-sponsored Carlos magazine.

In March 1994, Johnson's critically acclaimed autobiography A Bone in My Flute was published, in which he discusses his struggle with, and acceptance of, his homosexuality.

Holly is a Visiting Professor at Solent University, where he has worked closely with the School of Art, Design and Fashion.

Giving top tips to students graduating today, he added: "One piece of advice I think is wonderful is ‘get behind yourself and give yourself a push’ – because that’s what you have to do. You’ve laid all the groundwork now, and doors will open for you, but you must propel yourself through them. Nothing will just fall into your lap, you have to get out there!"