Slice of cake, anyone?

Written by Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean in the School of Arts & Creative Industries

There’s an Autumn nip in the air, the Great British Bake Off is due on our screens and the annual McMillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is just around the corner. Kitchen Aid mixers are whirling into action in kitchens across the UK.

Meanwhile, bags are being packed, goodbyes said, and freshers are itching to begin their university life. Around the World lecturers are preparing to welcome their new students and planning for the academic year to come.

It strikes me that these two situations have something in common. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that all lecturers are good bakers (far from it!), but there is something vaguely familiar about the nurturing, caring principles of baking and lecturing; the desire for a good outcome and the commitment to working hard to achieve this.

Quality Ingredients

Only the best ingredients (image credit

Ever tried baking a cake with less than quality ingredients – with a dodgy cooker and scales that don’t quite weigh correctly? Odds are your cakes won’t turn out to be as good as you would like them to be. Fit-for-purpose equipment and quality ingredients are needed to guarantee the bake that you are looking for.

When choosing a university to spend three or more years of their life at, prospective students similarly seek quality – strong rankings in the league tables, good NSS scores, high levels of student satisfaction and committed, highly qualified academics. A quality university is needed to turn out a top-notch, highly qualified and work-ready graduate.

The Recipe

Even quality ingredients can’t ensure a perfect bake if the recipe is wrong. One too many eggs or not enough baking powder and the cake’s a flop.

Be sure to get the recipe right

The same balance needs to be considered within the course that a student selects. The onus is on academics to create a balanced mix of exciting learning content, activities, guest lecturers, trips and course materials to ensure that students learn exactly what they need to know. Miss out a vital ingredient and students will struggle to achieve success in their assessments.

The Temperature

Too hot an oven and your cake will burn. Too cool an oven and your cake won’t rise. Getting the temperature right is as important as having the correct recipe.

Lifelong friendships are made at university, so a healthy balance between studying and fun is needed. The correct work-play balance creates an environment in which students flourish – without the fun some students struggle with the pressure of study and can be tempted to drop out. Too much partying and grades may suffer. A good university seeks to provide exactly the right balance between social and study. Student Unions, personal tutors, pastoral care and student guidance teams are all there to support students in getting it right.

Lifelong friendships are made at university


Jam and cream fillings, a sprinkle of icing sugar here, a coating of chocolate there and your cake is more than a cake, it’s a thing of beauty. It’s those finishing touches that make your cake the one that everyone wants to take a bite out of.

Decorations can create a thing of beauty

Similarly, a degree is not enough. Employers are inundated with graduate applications for advertised vacancies, and applications that stand out are those where the candidate has more than just a degree. Work experience, success in student competitions, self-awareness, confidence, professional presentation, global awareness…these are many of the added extras that lead an employer to choose YOU over other applicants.

Teesside University has a recipe for success. Why not join us for a slice of our cake at one of our Open Days, to find out for yourself – we’re pretty sure you’ll have a delicious time.

Courses in the School of Arts & Creative Industries


BA (Hons) Comics & Graphic Novels

BA (Hons) Fashion

BA (Hons) Fine Art

BA (Hons) Film and Television Production

BA (Hons) Graphic Design

BA (Hons) Illustration

BA (Hons) Interior Design

BA (Hons) Journalism

BA (Hons) Music Production

BA (Hons) Photography

BA (Hons) Sport Journalism


Art & Design

Media & Journalism

If you’d like to speak to a member of our team to find out more about studying in the School of Arts & Creative Industries, email and we’ll get straight back to you.

Art & Design Facilities video

Media Facilities video

Make a Good Decision this Clearing!

What do you know about yourself? “Think wisely and make good choices” says Dr Laura Sillars, Dean of the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University.

How many weeks do you think you have between being zero and 80? The writer Oliver Burkeman has recently published a book on this … most people guess a far larger number than the true figure. My nine-year old guessed 10,000. When I told him it was in fact only 4,000 he suggested that this was a good rationale to eat a lot of cake! Well, I like cake a lot as well, but that’s a little beside the point. This number shouldn’t scare us, but it does focus the mind on making the best use of our time.

Eat a lot of cake!

A standard three-year degree will occupy your imagination for c.156 weeks (including holidays where it might be at the back of your mind even if not front and centre). That is 4% of your total available lifetime budget. So, it’s worth making a good decision on what and where you study. There is so much noise and so much available data, how can you choose? Writing as someone who made a good (but rather rushed) decision in clearing rather than weighing up the options I have some personal experience to share.*

Make the right choice for you!

So this sounds a bit obvious, but most good decisions require us to know ourselves a little to know what we specifically need. Do you thrive in an ambitious environment where you’re mostly working alone and self-driven? There are Universities that offer, what one of my colleagues calls, DIY degrees. They really suit some people who are ready to simply crack on. These are not the degree experiences that we offer at the School of Arts and Creative Industries at Teesside University. We are very focused on the learning environment, creating networks within the lessons and nurturing talent. So, what is it you’re looking for?

Make a list

Start by writing a top ten list of things that are important to you. Here are some ideas. Do you need a focused timetable so you can work or undertake caring duties? Do you need great facilities to be on campus because you haven’t got space at home? Are your career aspirations driving you? Do you want industry experience so you’re ready to go once you graduate? Do you want to improve your technical skills? Is a smallish friendly group more important to you than being in a big competitive environment? When you’re done, share your list with friends and family to check if you missed anything.

Once you have your own list you can mark the places you’re looking at against your own criteria.

1. Website

Don’t just look at the course content and the general marketing blurb, search for distinctive words that connect with what you’re looking for. If you’re still not 100% sure about which course then follow the next steps.

2. Attend a Clearing Open Day

This way you can meet staff and students from all different courses and you can dip in and out of subject talks. It will help you review your options.

3. Visit (any day – even if not an open day)

Visit for a friendly vibe

Nothing gives you a better sense of a place than a deep dive visit. Even if it’s lashing with rain or snow, get out there. This is a big decision. There are so many sensations you can get from a visit. It also allows you to review the place against you list criteria.

We find that many folk who come and visit us sign up both because they love the learning facilities and environment, but also because they get a sense of the friendly vibe which helps them imagine studying with us. You can only experience this by coming in person.

4. Speak to Someone

Even if you spoke to someone in the past, get in touch again. We all have teams of people waiting to speak to potential candidates. Approach your conversation with curiosity – write down key words that are said. Do they align with what you are looking for. Friendliness and good humour should not be overlooked here!

5. League Tables and Data

You can gain some useful insights from the league tables if you’re reading them through the lens of your own criteria. In the student-led NSS survey, our creative courses score really well in all areas, but specifically our courses are very strong on areas such as Academic Support and Teaching on My Course. This data can tell you something about what we prioritise as a team.

So as you weigh up what you’ll do with 4% of your life, I’ll leave you with a quote from Oscar Wilde:

‘Be Yourself; everyone else is already taken’

Make a decision that fits you now and your sense of what is important to you for the future, your values, the ways you like to live and work and the rest will fall into place.

Good Luck!


Courses in the School of Arts & Creative Industries


BA (Hons) Comics & Graphic Novels

BA (Hons) Fashion

BA (Hons) Fine Art

BA (Hons) Film and Television Production

BA (Hons) Graphic Design

BA (Hons) Illustration

BA (Hons) Interior Design

BA (Hons) Journalism

BA (Hons) Music Production

BA (Hons) Photography

BA (Hons) Sport Journalism


Art & Design

Media & Journalism

If you’d like to speak to a member of our team to find out more about studying in the School of Arts & Creative Industries, email and we’ll get straight back to you.

Art & Design Facilities video

Media Facilities video

Doing Things Differently

We’ve been listening to what our students and applicants have to say about studying for a degree in the creative arts, and have decided to make some exciting changes to our undergraduate degree programmes. So if you’re joining us to start a degree in September, here’s a summary of the unique benefits of our creative courses

  1. Life-shaped learning:

Students will benefit from a compressed timetable

We recognise that our students are busy people. Many juggle jobs and family commitments. So, we take a blended approach to learning with the majority of time on campus on a compressed timetable and some elements of learning online, so that you can protect your family/work time. You will also be supported with online resources so you can catch up and revise. Of course, you will have access to our world-class facilities throughout the week, however, this way you can plan your time.

2. Build your Creative Identity:

Our courses are designed to help you find and grow your unique creative voice.

We focus on a nurturing/coaching/mentoring approach to learning and teaching. Once you’re a creative you’re always a creative. But how do you keep building and growing? Creativity requires resilience and mental strength. We have designed unique creative, reflective processes that will support you to see the patterns in your thinking. Using bespoke designed course planners, you will regularly use journalling techniques to support your creative identity development. Journalling is also known to support good mental health and wellbeing. Our programmes are shaped around the unique interests of our learners with projects forming the majority of assessments. You are located in a studio environment where you will develop the confidence to give and gain feedback from your tutors and peers so that you can grow and develop your personal resilience.

3. Fuel your Career:

Who you know as well as what you know!

Career development is built into your course from day one. Creative industries are growing faster than all of the economy with 1 million+ new jobs by 2030. We focus on supporting our students to develop the skills to compete in this dynamic environment.

On our courses, in year 1 and 2 you will study short, practical modules to give students a full understanding of how to build a career in the Creative Industries – you will focus on your specialist area but also explore the wider environment. In year three you will produce a portfolio as you develop your own unique professional identity. Throughout you will:

      • Gain behind-the-scenes insights, knowledge and build professional connections
      • Meet alumni in great jobs who can help you find your feet as you leave

4. Creative for Life:

Almost 30% of our students tell us that they are driven to study here because of their love for the subject.

Some of our students already have a career or want to work in adjacent areas (from marketing and PR to management) but they want to fulfil a lifelong ambition to develop their creativity. We fully embrace this ambition. We know that being creative will enhance your life in so many ways, and we create opportunities for you to develop your professional networks and your skills in areas such as funding applications or developing commissioning opportunities and outlets for your work. So, we support you in pursuing your passion alongside your career.

5. Find Focus and Flow:

Our course is designed to help you find your flow and creative focus.

Have you heard of the concept of flow? It’s how creatives to do their best work. We have taken lots of feedback from students. They find it challenging to study many modules at once. When you are fully immersed in a task and are fully present creatively new ideas emerge. You will grow creatively. We have designed our courses so you will only ever do two modules at one time. Most time is spent immersed in your creative studio with your tutors, specialist technical team, industry practitioners and peers as you learn through making and doing. This way, we help you get into your creative flow.

6. International Perspectives:

Our courses are designed to give you an international perspective from Teesside as well as opportunities to study abroad.

Being able to work and collaborate internationally will help you grow your career. Creative Industries are global! Our school has partnerships in Madrid, Milan, Prague, Rome through to India, Singapore, China and Turkey. We provide opportunities to work digitally with students studying internationally, to collaborate on projects or to travel and experience another country while progressing through your course. We actively encourage student mobility and support you in taking up these opportunities. We also identify and encourage students to enter competitions nationally and internationally to help you to gain recognition for your work.

7. Creative Making and Experimentation:

Risk-free experimentation is built into every semester allowing you to try things out and build new skills through MIMA Creative Week.

Throughout your working life you will need to keep experimenting, learning and trialling new things. We celebrate creativity by running a Creative Week where you go off timetable every semester so you can learn new skills and experiment creatively. From podcasting, studio photography, filming in a green-screen, screen printing to animal drawing – we have lots of opportunities for you to work in specialist facilities across our school to discover and develop new skills.

8. Becoming Digital:

Our future facing courses support you to be digitally confident and curious.

Every year new digital tools change creative production. Our students don’t just need to learn new software, they need to learn how to stay flexible and adaptive for a digital future. 

You will have access to a range of devices loaded with creative software to explore. All our courses adopt industry standard software. MIMA Creative Week offers a range of short, intensive digital courses. In-person content is backed up by material on our virtual learning platform, meaning that you can go back to view material at your own time.

All of our programmes are supported by Adobe with Teesside being the first European Adobe Creative Campus and we’re recognised as an Apple Distinguished School for our pioneering commitment to digital teaching and learning. We provide opportunities for students to gain accreditation via Microsoft, Adobe and Apple, to enhance future career prospects.

Here are the courses that you can study with us to benefit from this new and exciting approach to learning:

BA (Hons) Comics & Graphic Novels

BA (Hons) Fashion

BA (Hons) Fine Art

BA (Hons) Film and Television Production

BA (Hons) Graphic Design

BA (Hons) Illustration

BA (Hons) Interior Design

BA (Hons) Journalism

BA (Hons) Music Production

BA (Hons) Photography

BA (Hons) Sport Journalism

If you’d like to speak to a member of our team to find out more about studying in the School of Arts & Creative Industries, email and we’ll get straight back to you.

Art & Design Facilities video

Media Facilities video

Our ongoing journey

These developments have grown out of much discussion with staff and students and we will keep innovating and developing in the future- we’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback

Curating Happiness

George Vasey, Senior Lecturer in Curating at Teesside University, pursues happiness in the form of an exhibition

How do you curate an exhibition on the theme of happiness? Let me answer. With great difficulty. The subject of happiness has evaded the brightest minds. When my former colleague Laurie Britton Newell and I co-curated the exhibitions Joy & Tranquillity at Wellcome Collection, London in 2021 we were quick to understand our limitations. Let’s just say, spending two years studying the topic of happiness during the unhappiness of the Covid Pandemic was an illuminating experience. With this exhibition we really met our match with this vast and complex theme.

The exhibition recently toured to the Deutsches Hygiene Museum in Dresden, opening as Hello Happiness. Visiting the show on the opening, and seeing much of our original research, brought memories flooded back. On Happiness is expertly curated by Isabel Dzierson supported by the consultancy of myself and Britton Newell.

Deutsches Hygiene museum in Dresden. Photo: Oliver Killig

Working as a curator leaves you with lots of random facts. Here’s one for you: the word emotion was coined in the early 19th century by the philosopher Thomas Brown. Before then, we didn’t really have a concept for an emotional state. People used terms like passions to describe “stirrings of the soul.” These stirrings were to be resisted and the idea of emotion is a fairly recent phenomena.

So, where do you start on a project of this scale? Like any good researcher, we developed a series of questions that guided us through the topic. These included: what do people do to feel good and what does feeling great do to the body? Who defines what makes a happy life and who is excluded from this story? Can happiness be possible alongside unhappiness? Our research took us through ancient bloodletting rituals to Buddhism, 19th century yoga retreats, and medieval folk dances. We spoke to monks, activists, environmentalists, economists, scientists, historians and medical professionals, and commissioned artists and designers to bring the subject to life.


For all of its diverse forms, the ways to a happy life across history and communities share much in common. From creativity to meditation retreats, losing yourself on the dance floor to helping out in the local community, most forms of happiness revolve around a loss of the self. The philosopher Iris Murdoch called it “ego-loss” when the mind is occupied and the person is involved in something greater than the self. From secular to religious rituals, these paths towards ego-loss are found in every society since the dawn of time.

I learned that philosophically, feeling happy and the idea of happiness are slightly different concepts. The notion of a happy life is founded on the concepts of freedom, financial security, a sense of belonging and purpose. Scandinavian countries often feature high in international happiness surveys, many of their citizens benefiting from strong welfare support and high standards of living. Of course, emotions aren’t universally felt. How we feel is deeply physical and is constructed through memories and socialisation.


Feeling good can encompass a broad range of feelings from tranquillity to elation, catharsis to ecstasy and is often fleeting. Feeling good might accompany feeling bad. We might help others to feel good about ourselves or partake in destructive tendencies for that momentary dopamine hit. The quest for happiness can lead to perpetual unhappiness.

The most interesting aspect of my research involved talking to scientists and understanding the physical impact of hormones on the body. I talked to researchers who studied choir singers with evidenced levels of increased Oxycotin. This bonding hormone is involved in building trust and empathy. I talked to medical professionals who rhapsodised on the importance of Vitamin D and its ability to regulate mood. I learned that most of the feel-good hormone serotonin is in our stomach and not our brains and that a balanced diet is crucial in maintaining it. Did I learn any secrets to happiness while curating the topic? Sorry to disappoint but there are no quick fixes: regular sleep, exercise, a balanced diet and participating in cultural and community activities are all proven activities for improving wellbeing.


Isabel Dzierson has done a fantastic job of the exhibition, expanding on much of our original curatorial research. The exhibition boasts over 150 objects and artworks that bring the topic to life. The museum’s PR led with one of our original questions: why an exhibition happiness and why now? From the cost of living crisis to the environmental emergency, war in Ukraine to rising levels of political unrest seen across the globe, the question of what makes us feel good feels more vital than ever.


Hello Happiness runs from 27th May to 19th November 2023 at Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden.

George Vasey is a Curator and a Senior Lecturer in Curating in the School of Arts & Creative Industries, Teesside University.

Find out about our MA Curating

More about our Curator Degree Apprenticeship







Better the Devil You Know? Meeting our Movers and Shakers.

Dr. Laura Sillars, Dean of the School of Arts and Creative Industries and Director of MIMA, shares her thoughts on students who join us part-way through a degree course.

Every year students switch to study with us moving from where they began their studies to one of our undergraduate degree courses. I asked them how it had been and what we could learn from the experience of these brave movers who shake things up by taking a bold step and shifting institutions midway through their course.

Let me begin with a caveat – there are many amazing places to student creative subjects across the UK and beyond. While we all want to promote our own unique institutions, we do not want to do this at the expense of our valued colleagues labouring elsewhere. Education, particularly creative education, is an eco-system and most of us know each other and care about each other! Nevertheless, each place has its strengths. A series of discussions with students who have moved to study on our creative courses midway through their studies in their second year or third year gives them perspective on the differences between institutions. It has helped me understand some of the inherent qualities that our courses, location and institution can offer.

Here’s what I learned that our students valued:

  1. I see you …

Some of the very large providers can be great for gregarious, self-starters who don’t mind being in big groups and who can forge their lives very independently from their University life. Don’t get me wrong, we have many outgoing, self-starting students! However, I’ve learned that we are also a great place for quieter students. For those people, big impersonal environments can make them feel lost and they feel anonymous.

The overwhelming feedback our movers and shakers gave me was that at Teesside University they felt seen and heard. They were not remote from their teachers but were connected and coached. Their ideas could come through and they developed projects that genuinely helped them find and grow their creative voice. Treated as a unique individual they felt seen and heard.

  1. Staff
Associate Professor Richard Sober talking to a student

Linked to the point above, a third-year graphic design student fed back that even in his first meeting with an academic staff member he had the most meaningful and useful conversation of his higher education experience to date. Our staff listen to their students and are great at tuning in to what makes them interesting and special. Gently and carefully our staff challenge them to produce their best work.

This nurturing and creative care-taking is visible across all of our courses. It shines out in student module feedback and our student surveys, but it’s a value that is easy to miss or misunderstand. In short, our staff are particularly good at helping creative students become uniquely their best selves. This links to the students’ ability to get into the career of their choice – they stand out.

  1. Students
Students working with staff in the printroom

The safe-space studio culture that is developed in our school across all subjects means that movers and shakers can quickly make friends. Everyone I talked to had been made to feel welcome. They felt like they were a positive addition to the group rather than a latecomer interloper.

Also, while many creative universities have large inner city campus venues in high value real-estate locations, one of the huge benefits of our locations is that we have spacious facilities. This means that students can enjoy an environment which isn’t under too much pressure from other groups. There is dwell space and students can drop in and use facilities out of class time. Our movers and shakers really enjoy this capacity and it’s not standard provision across the sector.

Because students are focused on being their best creative selves, the working environment feels supportive rather than competitive. This is really important to our movers and shakers who reported feeling anxiety due to competition in other settings.

  1. Smaller groups
Staff and student in our Graphic Design studio

Even when we have larger groups, our students are predominantly taught in small studio groups and work together on projects. For some students who love the scale and energy of a massive studio culture this would not matter. For others, however, they feel that the calmness and connectedness of a smaller group can allow them to create their best work. This was a theme throughout.

Movers and shakers enjoyed being in an environment where they knew the people that they were working alongside. They noted times when they’d worked with the support of their peer group and had gained useful advice and feedback.

  1. Space and Facilities
Film and TV Production facilities

We have brilliant facilities. This is something that is easy for us who are immersed in the place can take for granted. Movers and shakers love the access to our wood and metal workshops, fabric printing, paper workshops through to green screens and high-tech studios. They also love working with our specialist technicians who helped them develop their wackiest of ideas.

There are many other reasons to study one of our creative courses, these conversations really helped put into perspective what we offer both new starters and movers and shakers. I have learned a lot from the conversations with this group of students about what makes our learning community and environment work for students. Thank you to those who spent time talking with me.


Find out more about courses available in the

School of Arts & Creative Industries

Undergraduate Study:

Art & Design    

Media & Journalism 

Music Production

Postgraduate Study:

Art & Design

Media & Journalism



Booming Film and TV industry in the North East

Charlotte Nicol is Associate Dean, Enterprise and Knowledge Exchange in the School of Arts & Creative Industries – here she talks about the wealth of opportunities in our booming North East film and tv industry 

Charlotte Nicol

If you’re studying film and TV at the moment in the North East – great work! Now is the time to be studying this course, congratulations on choosing a booming industry and an incredible place to live

Studying TV & Film Production

The BBC has made its biggest investment in the North East for decades as part of a new partnership with the region, and will be spending a minimum of £25m over the next five years to fund network TV production, talent development and support for the creative sector.

All of the local authorities and the combined authorities in the region have supported this financially (which, having come from a local authority I know is no mean feat, particularly as there’s 12 of them!)  The North East Screen Industries Partnership will jointly invest £11.4 million, over a five year period to deliver a new Screen Industries Development Programme, maximising opportunities for significant growth within the screen industries sector and developing a thriving and sustainable ecosystem.

Creative Cities Convention at Teesside University

My experience of speaking to industry partners mirrors this – at the Royal Television Society awards, I sat next to a colleague who told me that the number of entries had grown exponentially in the past few years.   The region held the Creative Cities Conference at the Boilershop in Newcastle, and Teesside University hosted the Creative Cities Convention masterclasses.  Our guests included ITV Signpost, the BBC, Chanel 4, Middlechild, and gaming company Ubisoft. Our students even had the opportunity of meeting Johnny Moore, the Chief Executive of Fulwell 73 Productions, possibly the most in demand man of the moment to speak to our students.  A couple of weeks ago I also had the pleasure of meeting the most down to earth and lovely Franc Roddam, acclaimed film Director, businessman, screenwriter, television producer and publisher, best known as the creator of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and the director of Quadrophenia (check out our scholarships here).

Franc Roddam scholarships for Film & TV Production students

My biggest take away from all the interactions I’ve had with people from this industry has been that not only do students need to be connecting with these amazing industry opportunities (first have a look at North East Screen) anyone hoping to enter this industry needs to build their soft skills as well as screen skills.

After reading ‘Tools of Titans’ which outlines the routine of super successful people, my favourite question to ask successful industry partners is ‘what do you do to make your life manageable?’ (I once asked Tony Hall from the BBC this when I met him and he told me he loved to garden and that’s what kept him going!)

In the film and TV industry it seems that resilience is absolutely key.   The wisdom that partners have shared with me is that any students considering going into the film and TV industry need to get thick skin and get it quick!

At Creative Cities I spoke to a screenwriter who told me about a very detailed morning ritual that involved getting up at 5am, exercising, having a cold water shower, and meditating.  I spoke to Franc Roddam about his experience of failure and he said ‘fail, fail harder and fail faster’, Franc said he had developed such resilience from all the rejection he received.  Charlotte Broadley at Channel 4 said that the best piece of advice she got was to be yourself be authentic and not to be afraid of getting things wrong.

Creative Cities Convention at Teesside University

It’s quite easy to talk about but hard to put into practice, the combined wisdom of all of our industry partners was that you can’t learn to fail if you don’t try things, get it wrong, and try again. 

Interested to find out more about our courses in Film and Television? Further information at the links below:

BA (Hons) Film and Television production

MA Producing for Film and Television

Chefs you’ve got 2 minutes: 5 lessons from the Master

Dr Laura Sillars, Dean of the School of Arts & Creative Industries, reflects on discussions with Franc Roddam about opportunities in the Film and Television production industry.

Renowned for cult-classic Quadrophenia, Auf Wiedersehen Pet and MasterChef, film maker, director, producer and one-time Norton-born Franc Roddam is a titan in industry. He is also known for his work capturing the complex lives of individuals who break the mould, such as the story of Michael ‘Mini’ who tried to burn down his own house as a child.

Scholarship Celebration Event (Laura SIllars, Franc Roddam, Charlotte Nicol, Lauren Bradshaw, Joanne Bulmer)

Franc generously supports a scholarship programme for Film and TV students at Teesside University and recently  returned to meet some of those he supports as well as a wider cohort of students from every level. Each session involved coaching and mentoring. Franc was honest, engaging and insightful drawing on his experience of working inside institutions such as the BBC or industrial systems such as Hollywood. Below, I’ve tried to capture the questions our students asked and our shared learning …

Question.1: How do I get my first job?

It’s a question that many students have when thinking about their first steps in the industry. From day one, our courses demystify the process of working in the creative industries, but nevertheless, jumping out of uni and into the world is daunting.

Franc says: Do the Hustle

Franc focused on the reality that hustling – for work, for your project to be commissioned, funded, developed, repeated – is a reality throughout your career. Developing hustling skills is central to all creative industries. That doesn’t mean you have to holler like a market trader. Hustling is about building relationships, pitching in small and larger ideas to other people’s project, always having your pitch up your sleeve and getting involved. In the early days, really, you’re pitching yourself – can I work on this film? Is there a role I can progress to? If this seems off-putting, think of it like this, if you’re always working in the service of a film or tv project, then you’re offering to serve not to self-aggrandize.

The more experience you have the better service you can contribute to the community. So, keep up with the hustle! And don’t let rejection put you off. You’ll be hustling throughout the whole of your career in any career, so get started now! Hustle your tutors for extracurricular opportunities, or people you’d like to hear from in class who aren’t yet on the speaker list; attend the early career sessions run by the North East Screen agency and make sure they know you’re up for opportunities; hustle your local film festival to create a student slot … whatever it is don’t wait for something to be delivered on a plate … be proactive, go and ask for it

Question 2: How do I find the area that will suit me best?

It’s important to know what you want, where you are trying to get to – but how do you find this out in the early days of your career?

Franc says: ‘Know thyself’

Franc asked the group, are you a ‘top down’ person who is great with ideas and likes leading a band of creatives? Do you want to focus on writing/directing? Or are you a ‘bottom-up’, skills-based person who seeks to perfect an aspect of the craft (camera, sound, light, editing)? Yes, to make it work, you might need to become both for a time! But, if you have a sense of your direction, you can build the bank of evidence that you need to share with potential supporters (employers, commissioners, funders). This will also help you focus. Franc suggested to the group that they think about the areas that they naturally like doing, ask their classmates, ask their tutors where they seem to excel.

Apply self-reflection skills. What do I like doing? What am I naturally good at? Think broad here. Are you the one who makes tea and solves conflict?  Producer! Are you the one who can problem solve the camera/screen/computer? Editor/Camera/Technical! Are you the one who goes behind the scenes and gets the props, costumes sorted? Art director! There are so many roles and routes, but finding one that connects to your inherent personality will let you thrive and enjoy your job. It will likely mean that you can excel.

Franc Roddam Scholarship students Jack Simmons and Louise Strike meeting Franc

Question 3: How do I build my career direction while making a living?

Your career will be long and rich and yes, you need to keep afloat and make a living.  Most successful people had their own challenges in the early days.

Franc says: Take calculated risks!

Things have changed now, but when Franc started he faced the chicken and egg problem that you needed be in the right union to get a job, and to get into the right union you needed to have a track record. So, instead he joined an advertising firm. He explained that as well as being a junior advertising executive he would also need to gain production credits. When he was offered a role at the BBC for a 9-week contract, he resigned from his well-paid advertising job and took a risk. This was the flip he’d been waiting for – the move from making a living while building skills to making a career. Note here the hustling, the self-awareness, but also, the risk taking.

If you want to be a director/writer you need to keep making things even as you’re making a living. This can be challenging, so think carefully about which skills you seek to develop to make your way. Focusing on skills such as production (from runner to catering) might be better than going for the technical areas where it can take years to build up the skills. If you’re a technical skills-based specialist by nature, you will need people to feed back on your work so you can progress. Ongoing specialist technical mentoring through experienced members of your field is invaluable, so look out for people who will give this to you.

Question 4. What about when things go wrong?

The students talked about the fear of making an error, or how to come back from a rejection or having genuinely made a mistake.

Franc says: We all have moments when we fail, get a kicking or have to take feedback. Learn to listen and reflect … move on and learn.

Failure is part of learning. This does not mean that you fall flat on your face and can never get up again. It might be learning that a certain shot doesn’t work, that you’ve invested in a scene that falls apart because of the weather, the equipment, the actors, the camera, and you didn’t have the tool kit to sort it out. Franc talked about some of his early experiences in Hollywood where he wanted to make auteur-led, politically charged films that changed the world. He was, he realised, in the wrong place. In Hollywood, you do what Hollywood wants. He talked about getting great reviews and dreadful ones, often written by the same critics. Developing a thick skin and not defining your success by external markers.

Yes, criticism stings, but learning to fail better is about learning to work out what you can extract from the feedback you’ve received … however brutal it might be. Get back up. Dust yourself down. Collect your friends around you. Take a deep breath. Keep going.

No. 5 – How do I stand out from the crowd?

There are so many people who seek to work in this field and our students wanted to know how they could make themselves distinctive.

Franc says: Don’t we all want to be special?

Don’t worry about standing out. Work in service of the film or project that you’re ushering into the world. You might rise into the spotlight or become one of the many thousand of brilliant people who contributed skill and excellence to make something happen that is bigger than all of you put together. Find satisfaction in being part of the bigger whole: the film, the industry, the community.

Franc had been reading a book by the art editor of The New Yorker magazine Adam Gopnik on turning ideas into reality in The Real Work. Gopnik notes that there are masters everywhere – not just the celebrated names, but swathes of people. You might become a well-known person in your field, but this might not translate into fame that goes beyond that field. This does not mean that the work you’re doing is not important. Far from it, excellence depends upon a community of professionals dedicated to excellence. So, don’t chase fame, chose instead to seek solid, meaningful experiences of contributing to projects that excite you and which will live in your imagination for the future. If you can tell a great story about your contribution to a project, that is a marker of success.

To conclude, our sessions with Franc were inspirational. I watched first year students have their concepts coached and creatively challenged by a master in the field. I heard second year students critically reflecting upon their productions. Final year students talked positively about the next steps in their career, and masters students spoke confidently about how they could influence change in their sector. I heard our students talking about their work, their careers and their collaborations with each other. They were just amazing.

I left feeling enormously hopeful about the future of film and tv!

Find out more about our  courses:

BA (Hons) Film and Television Production

MA Producing for Film and Television


MIMA Great Create Finalists revealed

We received over 90 incredible entries to this year’s MIMA Great Create competition, with some outstanding creativity expressed on our theme of the wonderful world of books. Difficult as it is to choose finalists from such an outstanding pool of creativity, our judging panel have decided upon the following 5 entries to go through to the finals on Saturday 18th March.

(finalists listed in numerical order of entry)

Entry number 25, by Hayley Harris

My illustration is inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book, The Secret Garden. I feel a strong connection with the book and characters, having lost a parent and being surrounded by wildlife and nature has helped to heal, give guidance and comfort. The scene that I chose to encapsulate is when the robin shows the way to the door and sadness is given some light and healing through nature. In my illustration, one side represents the four seasons in black and white, to show sorrow and grief. This gradually transforms into colour where nature heals the pain and shows light again.

Entry Number 25, The Secret Garden

Entry number 45 by Megan Keedy

I have created a photography piece relating to the books of the Twilight series. I have taken photographic images to inspire a dark setting with roses and gore/blood. Additionally, I have displayed my piece with dark red lights and more flowers . It relates to the book, by the end of the last scene with the fight of the vampires and the Voltari, and also the black and red robes.

Entry number 45, The Twilight Series

Entry number 53 by Rebecca Fletcher

This oil painting is based on the autobiographical book ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath. I was inspired to create a piece representing Esther’s descent into depression and regression into madness, to encapsulate the feelings in her book that could not be described. I intended to capture her breakdown, the horror and tragedy of her life and the societal expectations placed upon her by imprisoning the face with fingers. The possessive hands gripping onto her and confining the face were used as symbolism for the entrapment, anxiety and isolation that Esther felt at her lack of freedom.

Entry number 53, The Bell Jar

Entry number 61 by Tony Hamill

This is my entry for the book “Diary of a Young Naturalist” by Dara McAnulty. The book is written from the author’s perspective of an autistic young adult and is replete with scenes told from a unique perspective full of wonder and magic. This image is of grasshoppers and dragonflies in the undergrowth and is intended to capture the scene through the author’s eyes.  It was digitally created, allowing me more control over the process of layered objects and background details.  I used a process of pen and eraser to get a strong depth to the vines and undergrowth and make them appear intertwined.

Entry number 61, Diary of a Young Naturalist

Entry number 81 by Ayebabeledaipre Sokari

The illustration is for the book titled, Notes on Grief, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The scene is portraying the author writing down her thoughts in phases. It hopes to capture the forlorn moment of her pouring out all she felted about the death of her late father. The window representing a reflection of the past and present where she stays in-between thoughts. “Grief is forcing new skins on me, scraping scales from my eyes…. I cage my thoughts, I torque my mind firmly to its shallow surface alone. I am unable to quiet myself until I look away.” She speaks.

Entry number 81, Notes on Grief

A huge thank you to all entrants – the submissions were quite outstanding, making the judges jobs incredibly challenging. Our finalists’ work will be displayed in a pop-up-exhibition in MIMA (Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art) along with a showcase of all the 20 shortlisted entries from Saturday 18th March, when the overall winner will be announced at 4pm. If you would like to come along to the finals event from 3pm – 5pm please contact us on 

Take a look at our courses in the School of Arts & Creative Industries


Art & Design Courses

Media & Journalism Courses

Music Technology Courses

Performing Arts Courses


Art & Design Courses

Media & Journalism Courses

An Artist in Venice

Our partnership with the British Council Venice Biennale Fellowship programme opens up a unique opportunity for  students in the School of Arts & Creative Industries to apply for British Council Fellowships. Fine Art student, Leah Roberts tells us all about her fellowship in Venice

Rialto Bridge, Venice

The Venice Biennale, La Biennale de Venezia, is recognised as one of the most famous and prestigious cultural institutions in the world, standing at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends – the Art Bienelle is a world leader in contemporary art exhibitions with over 86 countries represented.

The legendary canals

Being given the opportunity to apply for a fellowship was incredible – the Fellowships programme is there to enrich the biennale exhibition, and Fellows are given the opportunity to spend a month in Venice during this phenomenal cutlural event, all supported with a grant to cover travel, accomodation and living costs.  For me personally, I wanted to be part of it because I knew that Sonia Boyce was exhibiting – I love Sonia Boyce and everything that she stands for as an artist, but also as a black female.

Photo from Leah’s Degree Show project

I ended up applying at the last minute and stayed up the night before the deadline, completing my application form, so I was shocked when I found out that I had been awarded a Fellowship.  During my time as a Fellow I received training on invigilation and public engagement in exhibitions and worked as a steward around the British Pavillion, helping to guide visitors and conducting tours to explain the work on display.  It was an incredible opportunity to develop a creative and professional network and I was fascinated to find out about different artists that I had never seen or even heard of before, and observing their perceptions of the Milk of Dreams.

Leah’s art
Leah’s art








Without doubt the experience has really helped me to develop my dissertation and my degree show project. I feel that I have grown as an artist as I’ve been able to see first hand people who create work like myself. I’d like to think that the experience will also help me moving forwards, to communicate my ideas to a more diverse and international audience. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’ll always remember it as the thing that I have loved most about my time at Teesside University.

Leah telling us what she has loved most about her time studying at Teesside University in our “Have a Heart” competition

Find out more about Leah’s course, BA (Hons) Fine Art here

Find out about our MA Fine Art here

Follow Leah on Instagram @Leah_roberts99

Ordinary People

Whilst writing this blog post, I’ve had to stop several times to recognise and reflect on the theme of Ordinary People on International Holocaust Memorial Day. Ordinary People were involved in all aspects of the Holocaust, Nazi persecution of other groups, and in the genocides that took place in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Ordinary People were perpetrators, bystanders, rescuers, witnesses – and Ordinary People were, and still are, the victims.

Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean, School of Arts & Creative Industries

I recently returned from a trip to Southeast Asia which included several days in Cambodia, one of the most beautiful countries I have had the privilege to explore. I’m repeatedly asked the question “how was your holiday?”, but in all honesty it didn’t feel like a holiday – more a kind of fascinating but sobering history field trip. Our feet barely touched the ground. We travelled over 22,500 miles across Vietnam and Cambodia in 21 days, by aeroplane, bus, car and tuk tuk, and we walked over 65 miles. We hitched up our backpacks and boarded the overnight sleeper buses that the locals use. We visited UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Halong Bay and the Angkor Wat temple complex. We shared meals and had conversations with lots of Ordinary People that we met along the way, from Cambodia, Vietnam and all corners of the world.

Streetside conversations
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

We visited the famous Angkor Wat temple site, rising at 4am to catch the sunrise over the temples – I climbed to the top of Angkor Wat and looked down on the stunning canopy of Cambodia before going on to visit the Bayon temple and the Ta Prohm Temple, where Tomb Raider was filmed. We swam beneath huge waterfalls and laughed and danced with the barefoot local children. We visited Hoa Lo Prison, aka the Hanoi Hilton, and learned of the appalling lives of the political prisoners who had the misfortune to be incarcerated there.

Ta Prohm Temple
Swimming beneath waterfalls in Cambodia

But by far the most moving site we visited was the Cambodia Landmine Museum. A tiny, outdoor collection in an area no bigger than the ground floor of your average 3-bedroomed house, which cost just $5 to enter (yes, the dominant currency in Cambodia is surprisingly USA dollars, although you’ll often get your change in Cambodian Riel). Here we learned of the atrocities of the Cambodia genocide and of the grim legacy left by the Khmer Rouge; the thousands of unexploded landmines still littering the rice fields, roads, and back yards of this war-ravaged country.

Cambodia Landmine Museum
Mr Aki Ra

We were humbled and honoured to meet the founder of the museum, Mr Aki Ra – an orphan of the Khmer Rough regime before he was even 5 years old, he became a child-soldier whose role was planting these terrible weapons that still today injure and kill dozens of civilians. In 1987 he defected from the Khmer Rouge and joined the Vietnamese army. Knowing so much about land mines and having trained with the United Nations at the end of the war, he became a deminer and spent over a decade clearing mines before opening the land mine museum. The museum was not only a place to tell the story of the Cambodia genocide, but also a home for many children, Ordinary People, who were orphaned by landmines or landmine victims. Mr Aki Ra estimates that he has probably cleared over 50,000 mines and unexploded ordinance (UXO) in his lifetime, yet there are still many more to be found.

Tuk tuks

We weren’t brave enough to visit the Killing Fields, but we felt the impact of the Cambodia genocide in conversations with tuk tuk drivers, market traders, barefoot children, street food vendors, and many other Ordinary People that we met during our travels.  It was a sobering reminder of just how privileged we are to live the lives that we live, in the peaceful countries that we live in.

If I could wish one thing for this incredible country, it is that more of us choose to experience its beauty and contribute towards its ongoing development. The loss of tourism since Covid lockdowns has hit them hard and they are desperate to share their country and their story with visitors – the story of Ordinary People like you or I whose lives have been devastated by the brutality of war.

Beautiful children, Cambodia