January: creative sparks | News and features


Hollywood actor Simon Pegg and Julia Donaldson, author of numerous children’s bestsellers including The Gruffalo, are among famous alumni recognized as some of the nation’s greatest creative minds in a new campaign to showcase creative talent nurtured in UK universities and encouraging the government to support creative courses.

Simon and Julia are among many other household names who studied at Bristol and are mentioned as part of a new Creative Sparks #MadeAtUni campaign led by Universities UK (UUK) to raise awareness of the contribution of universities to fostering creative talent and remind us of the importance of the creative sector for society.

New research*, conducted for UUK as part of the campaign, shows UK parents are strongly in favor of university creative courses, with more than two-thirds (69%) saying creative courses are key to propelling the creative industries of the UK and almost two-thirds (65 per cent) say they benefit the UK economy, there are fears that this contribution is now under threat, with two-thirds (67 per cent) of UK parents acknowledging that industries creative companies have suffered greatly from the pandemic.

Alistair Jarvis CBE, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: “Universities are places where creative ideas flourish, where innovation happens and where companies employing thousands of people are created. This is where the nation’s creative sparks are ignited.

Notable “creative sparks” who studied at Bristol University include, Julia Donaldson, ECB, who studied French and theater in Bristol,and is a world-renowned author of over 120 children’s and teen’s books and plays, including The Gruffalo. Simon Pegg, who studied theatre, film and television, is now a household name thanks to the comedy series Spaced and blockbusters such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End.

Other well-known Bristol creative talents include Hollywood actress Emily Watson, who studied English, actor Poultry and actors Matt Lucas and David Walliams who studied theater, David Nichols, one of the UK’s most successful screenwriters and an internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed novelist, studied English and drama, and Lizzie mold who, while studying chemistry at Bristol, helped create environmentally friendly snow developed for the Hollywood film industry.

Other UK Creative Sparks universities include:

  • Greg Davies – Alumni of Brunel University, comedian and actor
  • Keith Chapman – Norwich University of the Arts alumni, creators of Bob the Builder and PAW Patrol
  • Cressida Cowell MBE – Oxford University alumni, author of How to Train Your Dragon
  • Laura Mvula – Birmingham City University alumni, musicians
  • Roger Waters and Nick Mason, Pink Floyd – University of Westminster alumni, musicians
  • Ruth Wilson – University of Nottingham alumni, actress best known for The Affair, Luther, His Dark Materials and Mrs Wilson
  • Nich Kumar – Durham University alumni, comedian and presenter
  • Krysty Wilson – Cairns – Alumni of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, co-writers of the BAFTA-winning film in 1917
  • Lisa McGee – Alumni of Queens University Belfast, screenwriter of Derry Girls
  • Steven Knight – UCL alumni, writer and creator of BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders

You can read more about Creative Sparks UK here. You can also follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

Click on here to read the full list of Creative Sparks, or here to watch the campaign video, voiced by Greg James. You can even play the game online to see what “creative spark” you are here.

More information

Creative Classes in Bristol

For more information on creative courses at the Faculty of Arts at Bristol University, please visit the Faculty of Arts webpage.

*UUK poll survey:

Savanta ComRes surveyed 1,061 UK parents of children aged 18 or under online between March 11 and March 15, 2020, and another 1,298 between December 10 and December 21, 2021. Data is weighted to be representative of all UK parents of children aged 18 and under by age, gender and region.

British universities:

Universities UK is the collective voice of 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Our mission is to create the conditions for UK universities to be the best in the world; maximize their positive impact locally, nationally and globally. Universities UK acts on behalf of universities, represented by their heads of institutions.


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