A Life in Music – Celebrating Dame Fanny Waterman


The personal archive of the woman who founded one of the world’s most famous piano contests has been presented to the University.

The achievements of Dame Fanny Waterman DBE, co-founder of Leeds International Piano Competition, will be celebrated with an afternoon of varied events at the University on Sunday 11 March.

The programme includes:

• A photographic display of Dame Fanny’s life in music;

• A display of items from the new archives;

• Dame Fanny in conversation with her former pupil Lord Dyson, former Master of the Rolls, honorary graduate of the University and ex-Leeds Grammar School pupil;

• A recital by Leon McCawley, previous finalist of "The Leeds” (as the triennial competition is affectionately known) in the Clothworkers' Centenary Concert Hall – part of the University of Leeds International Concert Series
Please note: This is a late change to the programme; Federico Colli is now unable to perform due to ill-health.

Dame Fanny has given her archive to the University Library’s Special Collections for future generations of researchers to study. The piano competition’s archive has also now been given to Special Collections.

This generous donation will strengthen the already rich music-related holdings in Special Collections at the University of Leeds.

Dr Stella Butler

Dame Fanny, who will celebrate her 98th birthday later in March, said: “I have been privileged to enjoy a long and rich life in music, and the University of Leeds – with its key support from the start for The Leeds in 1963 – has been a loyal stalwart along the way.

“I am pleased to have found such a suitable home as the University’s Special Collections for the papers and memorabilia I’ve accumulated over decades, and hope it provides a useful mine of information for researchers for many years to come.

“I believe very strongly in the value of music, learning and education – something which underpins this unique event in March. I’m most grateful to the University for embracing it.” 

Items on display will include correspondence and unique manuscripts from composer Benjamin Britten, photograph albums and visitor books, as well as minutes from the very first meeting of The Leeds committee and a selection of programmes. 

University Librarian Dr Stella Butler said: “The generous donation by Dame Fanny of her personal archive will strengthen the already rich music-related holdings in Special Collections at the University of Leeds. 

“The archive will be made available to researchers and students who will be able to find out more about Dame Fanny’s life in music, her relationships with renowned musicians, and her role in putting Leeds firmly on the cultural map.”

The mark she has made on learning and performing the piano will never be equalled.

Sir Vernon Ellis

Sir Vernon Ellis, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Leeds International Piano Competition, said: “I was honoured and humbled to take over the Chair of the Trustees from Dame Fanny. But of course Dame Fanny had a much greater role – Founder, Artistic Director, Chief Executive, Chair of Jury.  

“She was all these for more than 50 years and the mark she has made on learning and performing the piano will never be equalled.  This wonderful archive allows us to appreciate the breadth and depth of that extraordinary contribution.”

The 68 competitors for this year’s piano competition – the 19th – have recently been announced. 

• Tickets for the event on 11 March – Mothering Sunday – are £15 (free for students and under-16s) and available from http://concerts.leeds.ac.uk/events/a-life-in-music/ or by calling +44 (0)113 343 2584

• The displays will be open from 1.30pm; the conversazione takes place at 3pm and the recital at 4pm (concluding at 5.15pm). The recital includes pieces by Scarlatti and Johann Sebastian Bach.

Further information

Images shows Dame Fanny Waterman congratulating 2015 Leeds International Piano Competition winner Anna Tsybuleva. Credit: SWpix.com 

For further information, contact the University of Leeds Media Relations Manager Gareth Dant on +44 (0)113 343 3996 or email g.j.dant@leeds.ac.uk