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Durham is a world-leading university and proudly part of North East England. From inspiring learning to sharing our facilities, from driving economic growth to helping our region become more sustainable: we ensure that the benefits of a world-leading university are shared across our city, county and region.

Throughout the year, a range of activities led by our student performing arts and sports societies are designed and delivered with our local community in mind. We explore a small selection of these below, including performances that are open to the general public, outreach with local schools, schemes offering access to our facilities and expertise.

Regional collaboration

In March our Choral Society joined forces with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Chorus at the world-renowned Glasshouse International Centre for Music, in a stunning display of regional collaboration. Eighty students sang alongside the North East’s only professional orchestra to bring Bruckner’s awe-inspiring ‘Great’ Mass to life. The performance received glowing reviews in national UK newspapers.

Watch the video on the collaboration below:

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Musical outreach

With over 30 choirs, orchestras, bands and other musical societies from award-winning a cappella vocal ensembles to jazz groups and full-scale orchestras, we contribute significantly to the musical life of the city, the county and beyond.

Durham University Palatinate Orchestra (DUPO) performed excerpts from Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony for prisoners at HMP Durham, building on the success of an initiative launched last year. The event was so popular, DUPO were asked to run a second performance.

Brooke Christiansen, DUPO President said: “We held two half-hour sessions receiving wonderful feedback from staff and prisoners. Many had never heard a performance of classical music before and were surprised by how much they enjoyed listening. The audience also had many questions regarding how much we practise and on the differences between all our instruments, the cello being a particular favourite.” 

DUPO are also looking forward to giving afternoon performances of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for local school children at Gala Durham, in Durham city centre. Run in conjunction with art workshops, the children will be encouraged to produce artwork based on the music. Their creations will be projected behind the Orchestra at a concert featuring the same piece on Thursday 6 June.

Our Chamber Orchestra will take Prokofiev’s iconic Peter and the Wolf to local primary schools this term, to draw them into the wonderful narratives that music can evoke and introduce them to the orchestral instruments. This will culminate in a concert at Durham Town Hall on Saturday 15 June.

Theatrical workshops

Our Student Performing Arts productions are open to the general public and encourage local community access and involvement. They cater to a range of performing arts preferences, from traditional performances to more specialist tastes. Beyond this, our students regularly work with regional groups and give back to schools, charities and others, taking their talent and expertise into the community to inspire and engage.

Durham Student Theatre has been busy working with schools – Sugar Hill Primary School and Parkside Academy – to offer drama workshops and develop performances for our Sir Thomas Allen Assembly Rooms Theatre. Students run after-school drama groups on a weekly basis. This culminated in performances of A Christmas Carol in the Michaelmas term, and rehearsals underway for A Midsummer Night’s Dream anticipated for Easter term. 

As well as supporting the arts in the school curriculum and offering theatre experience to pupils, the workshops also give our students valuable opportunities to spread creativity into the local community, to practice leadership skills, and enjoy sharing and teaching live physical theatre.

Sport in the community

We have a long and proud tradition of supporting our student athletes and have been recognised nationally for our commitment to sports. We regularly partner with and support local organisations and people in our wider community.

In April, we celebrated local footballing legend, Jack Greenwell, who was posthumously inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame. Hosting an event at St Mary’s College, we welcomed guests from local and global backgrounds including Durham County Council leaders, local and international football teams, Durham Miners’ Association along with members of our senior staff.

In addition to demonstrating our support regionally, we have been involved in supporting young talented athletes in North East England over many years. 

We support two sport schemes at regional and national level. The first is the Durham Institution of Sport (DIS) project, which is run through Durham County Council in collaboration with Team Durham. The scheme nurtures and develops the best sporting talent in the region by providing access to the best facilities and the best sports practitioners in the area. Our performance sport staff work closely with athletes to optimise their training and preparation to improve their performance. A number of these athletes have gone on to study at Durham and many have gone on to perform at the highest level in their sport.

The second scheme is the nationally recognised Talent Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS). TASS is a Sport England funded partnership between talented athletes (16+), delivery sites and national governing bodies of sport. The scheme aims to balance sports with the rest of an athlete’s life. We have supported the scheme for over 10 years but for the first time this year we have become a fully recognised TASS Hub due to the number of athletes we support.   

Richard Warburton (Performance Sport Support Manager) said of the schemes: “We’re proud to support talented athletes from the region in areas including strength and conditioning, nutrition, lifestyle and medical provision delivered by a team of outstanding practitioners. Through TASS we’ve supported over 100 athletes on their journey within national and international pathways. At a regional level, the DIS scheme has been thriving since its launch in correlation with the London 2012 Olympics, and typically supports over fifty athletes per year. 

“We’re proud to play an integral role in both programmes and look forward to continuing to see the progress made by talented athletes from across the region for years to come.”


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