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Welcoming back Alumni at the 2017 Media Festival

Posted by. Brett Arnall
Posted on 15 March 2017

blogs, blogs:Alumni, blogs:Media, Film and Culture

​​​A good degree can take you places, which is why we like to share our graduates' success stories. As part of the 2017 Media Festival we invited our Media alumni back to talk to our students about their jobs and achievements since graduating from Leeds Trinity University. Thankfully, our Alumni Relations Officer, Brett Arnall, was there to tell us about the day.​

Over to Brett:

One of the most pleasing aspects of my job and something that really stood out for me when I joined the University two years ago was the level of support our former students are prepared to​ offer. Whether t​his is in the form of mentoring, attending events, sharing their graduate story or returning as a guest speaker, we are very fortunate to be able to utilise this goodwill to support and inspire our current students. 

This support was none more so evident than at the 2017 Media Festival. Senior Lecturer in Radio Bob Walmsley organised and hosted the inaugural Media Festival on 4 May 2016, with a day of inspirational talks from graduates at different stages of their career. The day was a huge success and in its second year Bob and colleagues upped the ante by holding a weeklong festival, showcasing a spectacular array of talent from Monday 27 February to Friday 3 March.

Guest speakers throughout the week included Stuart Murphy who developed, launched and ran Sky Atlantic, and scriptwriter Lisa Holdsworth.  But also topping the bill again were some of our very own alumni. 

The Media festival kicked off in spectacular fashion with the return of alumna Harpreet Kaur, who is a presenter for the BBC Asian Network. Harpreet studied English and Media before going on to study MA Broadcast Journalism in 2011. Speaking to us after the event, Harpreet expressed her delight at being back on campus, "thank you so much for the opportunity - it was an absolute pleasure coming back. It was great seeing familiar faces!".

This first session set an incredibly high benchmark for the rest of the week, but Bob and his colleagues in Media maintained a diverse, and exciting schedule to excite students on a daily basis. It was also great to see recent graduates coming back throughout the week to attend some of the sessions.

The week flew by and really ended in style, featuring an alumni showcase alongside one of the media industry's finest; Stuart Murphy, the man who launched Sky Atlantic and brought Game of Thrones to the UK. Getting Stuart in was a real coup for the Media department, it really demonstrated the reputation of Leeds Trinity in being able to reach out to some of the biggest names in media.

Leeds Trinity Alumnus Vinny O'Connor speaks

The first of Friday's alumni guest speakers to be interviewed on the couch by Bob was Sky Sports' Vinny O'Connor.

Vinny studied Sport, Health & Leisure, graduating in 1997. He started off by reminiscing about his time on campus and how things have changed. He then gave a very honest view on what life was like working for Sky Sports, interviewing the country's top stars and managers. What always really stands out for me is the honesty and advice our alumni are so prepared to share with our students. Vinny spoke of difficult conversations with names such as Sir Alex Ferguson, when he nearly received the hairdryer treatment himself after asking a question Sir Alex not only didn't want to answer but didn't think was coming. Students really got the feel of everything that goes on behind the scenes as Vinny showed footage of some of his interviews and innovative situations he and his team had to create. It was a real eye-opener and it was great to see at the end of the session the number of students who not only had questions for Vinny but were keen to network with him.

This return to campus wasn't just a one-off for Vinny​​, he is preparing to don his gloves again in a football tournament that his friend Angus Martin is organising this May. Maybe there is a brave student who may come along to analyse Vinny's performance in goal and interview him as he leaves the pitch!

Alumni takeover and Q&A session

Following Vinny were three more recent graduates at the early stages of their career after life at Leeds Trinity. Returning alumni included Liam Smedley, Abi Standish and Rebecca Brookes. All alumni gave great accounts of their careers to date and talked about the leap they experienced from student life to their professional careers.

Liam who graduated in December 2014 is one of our highly successful postgraduate Journalism graduates. As a student he utilised the contacts available in journalism and featured on the Jeremy Vine radio show whilst on a rollercoaster. After many years in commercial radio Liam was turned down several times by the BBC before getting his dream job as Broadcast Journalist at BBC Radio 5 Live. The persistence he showed despite many rejections was incredible and his journey is a valuable lesson for students; no matter how many times you get knocked down if you work hard and are persistent, you can achieve anything. Liam was also delighted to see his picture displayed on alumni success story boards outside the Centre for Journalism.

Abi graduated from Leeds Trinity in 2012, after completing her course in Film & Television. She wanted to be a part of the magic that goes in to television and worked as a volunteer and intern to get the experience needed to progress her career. She encouraged all students to get as much experience as possible to prepare for future opportunities that may come your way. She is now Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Cinema For All.

Rebecca is a recent graduate, now working in the Media Centre at Leeds Trinity. Rebecca attended the Media Festival last year and took the initiative to ask one of the guest speakers Gareth Jones if she could possibly visit the BBC which actually led to her getting some work experience. This proved to be a masterstroke on her behalf as she now not only works for Leeds Trinity but also with the BBC as a Sports Broadcast Assistant! 

As well as the 'warts and all stories' our alumni are prepared to share with our students, one thing that I regularly see as Alumni Officer is that those who have made it to the top experience lots of knock-backs before getting where they are. All of the alumni attending this year's Media Festival were certainly no different and have worked extremely hard, grasped every possible opportunity and have stepped out of their comfort zones to get where they are today.

After another great success following this year's week-long event, we've already had alumni getting in touch wanting to be guest speakers next time.

I'd like to finish by congratulating Bob and his colleagues in Media for an outstanding week of events. I'd also like to thank all the alumni who have given up time in their busy schedules to return to campus and not only inspire our students, but staff like myself, too.