University of Leeds: Hepworth Wakefield & West Yorkshire Playhouse.

The University of Leeds puts cultural impact centre stage with new cultural partnerships.

The University has a long-standing reputation for strong links with local cultural and industry partners. Since the founding of the Yorkshire College of Science in 1874 with the support of local industrialists, the university has placed particular emphasis on meeting the technological and cultural demands of the nation. In 2015, these ties have been strengthened with partnership agreements with two regional creative organizations, West Yorkshire Playhouse and The Hepworth Wakefield.

Culture, one of seven key research themes explored by the University, brings world-leading researchers at Leeds together with industry partners to help to address the major ethical, political, technological and environmental challenges of contemporary life in a global context.

The recent partnerships have been set up through two memorandums of understanding, agreeing that the university will work more closely with the Playhouse, and, separately, with The Hepworth Wakefield, to realise a number of ambitious new plans.

Building on well-established relationships, student education is a key element, and both partnerships aim to support young people who aspire to work within the cultural industries.

UoL-WYP launchThe theatre partnership between the University’s School of Performance and Cultural Industries (PCI)  and West Yorkshire Playhouse will develop new and emerging talent, including linking the Playhouse’s new writing scheme with PCI’s Writing for Performance and Publication Masters course.

Collaborations between students on the Masters course and the Playhouse have already seen huge success when playwright Zodwa Nyoni premiered her play Boi Boi is Dead at the West Yorkshire Playhouse earlier this year. Written during her time on the MA, the play was shortlisted for the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the foremost international award for female dramatists.

Spurred on by success, talks between Garry Lyons, programme leader for the Writing for Performance and Publication MA and the Playhouse’s artistic director James Brining sparked the signing of a memorandum of understanding to develop further projects with regional, national and international impact over the next three years.

Similarly, it was a long-standing collaborative understanding between the University and The Hepworth Wakefield that enabled the two organizations to formalize their partnership. The School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies has worked with the gallery ever since it opened in 2011, and following the memorandum of understanding, academics and gallery staff will work together on mutually-beneficial projects, build on activities aimed at boosting the creative industries in West Yorkshire, and inspire young people through education outreach programmes with local schools.

The partnership between the University of Leeds and The Hepworth Wakefield was sealed in September 2015 by the appointment of John Holden to the role of The Hepworth Wakefield Visiting Professor within the University.

Professor Holden has extensive expertise in leadership and is a renowned cultural commentator, with involvement in many major projects within the cultural sector across libraries, music, museums, the performing arts and film. Previously Head of Culture for influential think tank Demos, Professor Holden will be a valuable voice in building mutually-beneficial projects between the university and the gallery.

A trustee of The Hepworth Wakefield since it opened, Professor Holden has said: “I’m looking forward to strengthening the great links that already exist between these two great institutions and to help the partnership grow and flourish.”

By building on a long history of collaboration and creative development, these two partnerships give students, academics and cultural partners a chance to think outside the walls of the institution, and tackle challenges innovatively. Students are offered truly valuable experiences in the creative industry, while researchers can share valuable insight and show the impact of their research.

The signing of the two partnerships were encouraged by the development of the University’s forthcoming cultural institute, which from next year will provide the point of contact for arts and culture collaborations between academics and the cultural sector.

Back to Case Studies