Masters student

Nicola Thompson

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Originally from the South I moved to West Yorkshire around three years ago and absolutely love it. I did an access course and went to university in London as a mature student in my 20s and have worked in the arts for about 15 years in theatres and art centres. Over the last few years I have also been developing my work as a textile artist and recently opened a studio in Huddersfield. I also now work in community engagement and am passionate about everyday creativity and supporting communities to explore and develop the excellent cultural activities that really appeal to a wide range of people.

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

I was thinking about undertaking a masters degree for a while and although initially I wanted to do a practice-based degree, I also felt that I wanted to explore policy and develop my ideas around how the arts are funded and used by local government in place-making. I took a free online future learn course on arts fundraising that was offered by the University of Leeds and really enjoyed it, the networking and the new knowledge, so I looked at what was offered in the master’s courses and came across the one I am part of now.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

I have enjoyed my career in the arts so far but at times have felt quite disillusioned by some of the top-down decisions and the implications for the wider sector. I want to have a comprehensive knowledge of this and be able to contribute to the sector in the future in a more meaningful way. Growing up on a council estate I felt excluded from culture often and that should never be the case – it is a human right and a lot of work is needed to understand exactly what culture is to all people in our society!

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

I loved that such a wide variety of modules was available on the course so that I could build my own learning depending on what was most relevant to my interests and in the research and dissertation parts of the course I am really encouraged to explore my own ideas and expand my thinking.

What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?

The wide variety of experience that the professors have. Whatever your interests there is a mentor you can turn to, academics and professionals turned academics, result in brilliant understanding of the sector.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

One of the things that I have found most useful is the dedicated postgraduate study area in the Edward Boyle. Busy but calm and being able to book an individual study room has been very valuable. The school itself does not have much student space but the wider campus provides plenty. Lecture capture has also been very helpful as I can re-watch lectures at home and build on my notes.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Contact the professors and have a chat if you are not 100% sure about which course to do and you can always ask to be put in touch with a current/graduate student to get a deeper understanding of the course. But really, it has been a great experience but make sure you are ready to really get stuck in to the course as it is an intensive programme of study.

What do you plan to do now you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

As I finish the course, I am considering PhD study and am currently planning to develop a formal organisation in my community that identifies and builds on local cultural opportunities.