Cultural engagement

The Cultural Institute promotes and integrates the University’s outstanding cultural attractions, creative resources and performance and exhibition spaces, in order to increase participation with the University’s rich creative community.  

In addition to artists, students and researchers, we work with the following on-campus cultural producers, venues and research centres to showcase some of the cultural strength of the University of Leeds: 

  • Marks & Spencer Company Archive 
  • University of Leeds Concert Series 
  • Leeds University Library Galleries 
  • stage@leeds 
  • Leeds University Poetry Centre 
  • Centre for Audio-Visual Experimentation 
  • Museum of History of Science, Technology and Medicine 
  • Yorkshire Fashion Archive 

The University plays an important part in the cultural life of the region, and the Cultural Institute has supported the city of Leeds in plans to celebrate culture through a year of artistic activity in 2023.  

Leeds International Piano Competition 

The University is the principal partner of the Leeds International Piano Competition, a truly international celebration of the piano which takes place in the city every three years.  

The University campus has been a venue since the first competition in 1963, and today the University’s Great Hall provides the venue for the second and semi-final stages of the competition.  

We reimagined our partnership in 2018, supporting the festival to reach new audiences both locally and around the world. A hugely expanded programme transformed the competition into a city-wide celebration of the piano, with extensive public outreach and education. For the first time, talks, masterclasses and performances were hosted at the University alongside the competition heats. Other activity included the inaugural Leeds Piano Festival and the Leeds Piano Trail, featuring work by University students. 

The competition returned in 2021, and sixteen cities around the world – including New York, Berlin and Seoul - will host the virtual first round, with 62 pianists from 28 countries competing. Twenty-four pianists will then be invited to Leeds for the final stages of the competition from 8–18 September, when their performances will be shared live and online via, the world’s premier source for streaming classical music.

The expanded reach into cities across the world is matched by a renewed focus on local connections, and to emphasise access and inclusion. Five new, paid internships for University of Leeds are on offer, and the Leeds Piano Trail will this year feature pianos transformed into artworks by five community groups and five local artists. Read more about the University’s partnership with the Leeds International Piano Competition

Inspired by Bragg 

Inspired by Bragg is a series of events and activities, celebrating the life of Nobel prize winner William Henry Bragg, and commemorating the launch of the new multi-million pound W H Bragg Building at the University of Leeds. 

The Cultural Institute is producing a programme of cultural events leading up to the opening of the new W H Bragg Building at the University of Leeds in Summer 2022.   

Named after Sir William Henry Bragg, a former professor at the University who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915, the new building will bring together the School of Physics and Astronomy and the School of Computing, creating an engineering and physical sciences hub on the north-east corner of campus. 

Inspired by Bragg will mark the opening of the building with a cultural events programme which casts light on the interdisciplinary approach that underpins research at University of Leeds, taking as its inspiration the life and work of W H Bragg, and current Bragg Centre research. 

It will include: 

  • a newly commissioned poem, to be performed at the opening of the building 
  • a children’s book which will celebrate the story of W H Bragg and his son William Lawrence, their research or research with a clear link to Bragg's discoveries/research 
  • exhibitions in the W H Bragg Building itself, and in the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery 
  • musical compositions, as part of the University’s International Concert Series 
  • narrative theatre pieces inspired by Bragg’s life 
  • activities for Light Night, an annual art and light festival in Leeds 

The programme has been developed in partnership with the University of Leeds Poetry Centre, Public Engagement with Research, stage@leeds and Leeds University Library Galleries. 

Call for artists 

The Cultural Institute and partners invite expressions of interest from poets and writers from Leeds and beyond to create works in response to the themes of the life and work of William Henry Bragg. These commissioned pieces will be included in the Inspired by Bragg programme. 

Read the call for artists and submit an expression of interest. 

The deadline for expressions of interest is 3 September 2021. 

Light Night 

Each year, we work with cultural producers across the University to coordinate a series of arts events, as part of the Leeds’ biggest annual multi-arts festival.  

For 2021 we will be working with our internal partners Leeds University Library Galleries and stage@leeds to programme lively and engaging activities on campus as part of the festival. We are also supporting scientist Professor Paul Beales and poet Caitlin Stobie (originally paired through our Leeds Creative Labs: Bragg Edition) in developing a projection piece for Light Night 2021. 

Cultural Fellows 

Cultural Fellows embody our ambition to support and develop emerging creative talent in a variety of different art forms. Cultural Fellows are practising artists who are embedded within our institution, given precious time to experiment, to interact with researchers, cultural partners and students and to create bold new work. 

In 2017 three international artists joined the Cultural institute as Cultural Fellows in Arts and Science, to collaborate with scientists, creating new work at the cutting-edge of arts/science collaboration.  

Kat Austen is a new-media artist and interdisciplinary researcher creating digital media, sound, video and sculptural works. She focuses on understanding our decision-making in terms of our relationship to the environment, with a particular concern with climate change. In October 2018, Kat presented the premiere of The Matter of the Soul | Symphony at the Howard Assembly Room.  

Christophe de Bezenac and Dave Lynch are artists and makers who are working together to explore how arts/science practice can fundamentally transform academic thought. Dave, an artist, director and inventor, works internationally at the intersection of art, science, business and technology, involving large-scale interactive installations and performances. Christophe is a composer who has performed at world-class venues and festivals in the UK and Europe, and is also a postdoctoral researcher in cognitive neuroscience. Since their fellowship at the Cultural Institute, they have become artists-in-residence at the Bragg  

In 2020, multidisciplinary artist Akeelah Bertram became the first Gatenby Cultural Fellow in Contemporary Arts. Through her fellowship Akeelah is developing her multi-site, immersive piece The Return, which was exhibited at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in July 2021. 

As well as the Cultural Institute’s own Fellowships in Arts and Science, award-winning poets Zaffar Kunial, Helen Mort, Vahni Capildeo and Malika Booker have held Douglas Caster Fellowships in Poetry, hosted by the University of Leeds Poetry Centre. Sculptor Dominic Hopkinson is artist-in-residence at the School of Mathematics, and Lawrence Molloy is artist-in-residence in the Museum of Science, Technology and History of Medicine. 

DARE Art Prize 

The DARE Art Prize is an annual competition, launched in 2017 as part of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds. The Prize aims to support radical interdisciplinarity and challenge artists and scientists to work together on new approaches to the creative process. The prize winners are awarded £15,000 and given the opportunity to work with University of Leeds scientists to create bold new work informed by that latest research.  

The inaugural winner was composer Samuel Hertz, who spent a year working with researchers from the University of Leeds, staff at Opera North and artists from across Europe to create a piece of electro-acoustic chamber music premiered in Leeds in February 2018. 

The DARE Art Prize winner in 2018/19 was Anna Ridler, an artist and researcher who works with systems of knowledge and how technologies are created in order to better understand the world. 

The current recipient of the DARE Art Prize is poet, writer and visual artist Professor Redell Olson, who is producing a song cycle and film in collaboration with Leeds researchers from the BioDAR research project, which uses radar to collect information about insect biodiversity. 

Find out more 

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Collaborator profile

My collaborative research and development with staff at the University of Leeds, Opera North, and other organisations has been continuously rewarding and surprising.