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University backs new artistic talent

University backs new artistic talent

The University of Leeds is talent spotting for the brightest and best new writers, artists, actors, dancers and musicians.

The University's new Academy of Cultural Fellows will recruit a multi-talented group of artists - and then fund them to develop bold new work.

At the same time, the Fellows will pass on their skills, inspiring students with the joy of creativity while bringing an exciting new dimension to their learning. Through outreach activities and events, and partnerships with local arts organisations, their work will also make a significant contribution to the cultural life of Leeds and beyond.

The Academy of Cultural Fellows revives a tradition begun in Leeds in 1950, when printer and art-lover Eric Craven Gregory funded the groundbreaking Gregory Fellowships to support the work of a cadre of painters, sculptors, poets and musicians.

In the austerity of post-war Britain, they helped create a University distinctive for innovative creative arts and the avant garde. Over the course of 30 years, Gregory Fellows included the sculptor Kenneth Armitage, poets James Kirkup and Jon Silkin, and painters Terry Frost and Trevor Bell.

The launch of the Academy of Cultural Fellows coincides with an exhibition by renowned artist and former Gregory Fellow Alan Davie in the University's Stanley and Audrey Burton Art Gallery. In the same way as the Gregory Fellows transformed the University's cultural landscape, the Academy of Cultural Fellows has the potential to create a wealth of artistic endeavour, the impact of which will be felt throughout the arts for years to come.

The Academy will nurture outstanding early-career artists from across the cultural spectrum, setting up a series of fellowships to support new talent from the worlds of music, poetry, fine art, drama, film, radio, journalism and dance. The funding will give them precious time and freedom to evolve new work and experiment with fresh ideas.

As it was for the Gregory Fellows, funding for the Academy will be entirely philanthropic, and generous funding from the Future Fund of Opera North has enabled the creation of the first - the Dare Fellowship in Opera-Related Arts and Composition.

The Fellow will be appointed in the next few weeks, and over the two years of the fellowship will explore, create, share and present their work - strengthening still further the lively Dare collaboration between the University and the opera company.

Dr Richard Mantle, General Director of Opera North, said: "The Fellow will benefit both our organisations, creating bold new music while taking a passion for opera out into the community. I am delighted that the Future Fund of Opera North is able to appoint the inaugural member of the Academy of Cultural Fellows." The Academy will be led by Professor David Cooper, Dean of the Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications at the University of Leeds.

He knows from first-hand experience the extra dimension which the Gregory Fellows brought to the campus:  "As an undergraduate music student at Leeds I was fortunate to have been taught composition from 1976-8 by Peter-Paul Nash, the last Gregory Fellow in Music. "I know how inspiring this was for me, to be learning directly from this extremely talented and sophisticated young composer. The Academy of Cultural Fellows presents a wonderful opportunity to similarly inspire the students of today."

For further information:

Please contact the University of Leeds Press Office on +44 (0)113 343 4031 or email

A launch event for the Academy of Cultural Fellows will take place in the University on Tuesday 23 March 2010.

Notes to editors:

  1. Professor David Cooper is Dean of the Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications at the University of Leeds
  2. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise showed the University of Leeds to be the UK's eighth biggest research powerhouse. The University is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The University's vision is to secure a place among the world's top 50 by 2015.
  3. The Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications (PVAC) consists of four schools; Design, Fine Art, Music and Performance and Cultural Industries, as well as the Institute of Communications Studies. Subject areas include those from the creative arts and humanities, social sciences and science and technology. The School of Performance and Cultural Industries was formed at the merger of Bretton Hall College with the University of Leeds in 2001.
  4. Opera North is England's national opera company in the north and is committed to producing high-quality, exciting and entertaining work by actively challenging preconceptions of opera, breathing new life into the classics, advocating lesser-known works and championing musical theatre. Over the last three decades Opera North has established itself as one of the leading arts organisations in the country and one of the most imaginative opera companies in Europe.
  5. The Dare collaboration between the University of Leeds and Opera North is combining the excellence of both organisations to inspire artists, students and practitioners, stimulate audiences - and spark bold new work. The four-year partnership aims to enhance the creative and intellectual life of Leeds with a range of projects which would be beyond the reach of either party alone - and the impact of which will be felt regionally, nationally and internationally.

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