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Leeds Beckett University students scoop all three prizes in Universities UK’s Creative Sparks competition

Leeds Beckett University (@leedsbeckett) Leeds School of Arts students Niamh Ashley, Connor Buckler and Victoria Connell won the first, second and third prize worth collectively £1,000 in art training and supplies.

This achievement highlights the range of disciplines at Leeds School of Arts and how its students contribute to the wider creative sector. All three winning projects had a strong focus on social issues, addressing gender inequality, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the struggles of loneliness.

First prize went to BA Architecture student Niamh Ashley, who won £500 in art equipment or training to further support her work. Her project was an installation art piece created using waste egg crates and included female empowerment quotes to spread awareness of inequality.

Niamh Ashley said: “I’m so happy to have come first in the Creative Sparks competition. I’m thrilled to have taken part and seeing all the amazing work submitted by other students, I can’t believe I won first place.”

MA Architecture student Connor Buckler won second prize, worth £300, with his short film showing life before and after the pandemic. The film includes drone footage of industrial landscapes in the Leeds city region and is accompanied by a powerful narration.

He said: “Winning the prize was fantastic. My postgraduate architectural design module ‘Cinematic Commons’, focused on filmic expression, and we wanted to demonstrate what life was like during lockdown.

“I am a big fan of cinema and hopefully this competition can lead me to make more films in the future.”

BA Filmmaking student Victoria Connell’s poem ‘Halls’ won third prize and was commended for the realistic and heartfelt account of living in university accommodation and struggling to make friends. Victoria was awarded £200 in art supplies or training of her choice.

She said: “When I found out I won third prize, I felt so shocked and validated. It has really given me confidence in my abilities going forward. The next time I enter a competition like this, I will be far more self-assured when reciting my poems.”

Professor Lisa Stansbie, Dean of the Leeds School of Arts, said: “We are very proud of the three students who won the Creative Sparks awards. We are committed to encouraging and supporting creativity at Leeds School of Arts and this achievement shows the great contribution of our students, graduates and academics to the wider creative sector.”

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