Northern Opera Group works with university students

Northern Opera Group is a professional opera company based in Leeds. We programme a range of productions, participatory projects, events and online content for audiences locally, nationally and internationally. We are a registered charity.

Every year we hold the Leeds Opera Festival across the August Bank Holiday which takes place right across the city. We wanted to utilise the Festival to promote local communities, venues and talent, and were keen to engage with local visual artists to create the imagery for our communications and marketing.

With the city being home to one of the UK’s most prestigious art universities, it was natural that we approached Leeds Arts University with a view to engaging their students. This was made straightforward through the University having a dedicated employability team, and it was easy to find and contact them through the website.

We decided upon holding a competition with University students, with them responding with a proposal to our design brief – outlining our requirements, the theme/productions of the Festival, audience demographics, key messaging, etc.. The winner was guaranteed a commission to create our Festival imagery and a prize of £500.

Again, this process was very straight-forward and all handled by the University. Upon close of the competition, they provided us with a summary of entries for us to choose the winning candidate.

The competition was first run in 2017, and we have held it every year since.

It has been hugely beneficial to Northern Opera Group and our Festival. It has

  • Enabled us to engage with a broad cohort of outstanding early career artists
  • Help fulfil our charitable mission to support local talent across the arts
  • Bring fresh perspectives to our work, and find new ways to bring together the visual and operatic arts
  • Create high quality and contemporary materials to promote our work to a wide audience

One of the other upsides to the competition has been establishing longer term relationships with candidates. We have already re-employed two previous candidates to create work for other productions and events, including film and exhibition projects. It has made creating connections with varied visual artists very easy for us, and opened up new creative and communications possibilities that we may otherwise not have considered. All of the candidates we’ve employed to date have been a joy to work with, and our working relationship with the University has been very positive.