The University of East London has a long, proud tradition of preparing students for artistic careers. Encouragingly for our graduates, UEL also an impressive track record of former students reaching the upper echelons of the creative industries. There are also many impressive people who hold honorary doctorates from UEL. If you’re aiming for those heights yourself you’re in pretty inspiring company. Here’s a few of your star-studded predecessors whose ranks you may one day join…
A celebrity for the vast majority of his life (he began recording music at 10 and was performing on pirate radio from the age of 14), the prominent rapper – real name Kwasi Danquah - holds a BA (Hons) in Digital Arts, Moving Image and Animation from UEL. On top of his musical career he’s also an accomplished businessman, with his own clothing range (Star in the Hood) and a brand of audio gadgets (Goji Electronics).
Roger received his MA in Fine Art from UEL in 2003 but is much better known for his acting. He’s been a regular TV character actor for years, appearing in the cultural smash Game of Thrones as well as Dr Who, Merlin, Mr Turner, Coronation Street, Grange Hill, Lovejoy, The Bill and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. On the movie front he’s been in the cult classic Brazil, the critically-acclaimed Shadowlands and the Scorsese blockbuster Gangs of New York. Currently on the big screen playing Ralph Butterworth in Christopher Robin, he’s 61 and still regularly working.
Another one of UEL’s Fine Art alumni (who graduated with a Doctorate), Max is an award-winning video artist who became the brains, eyes and ears behind Amnesty International’s short film Stop the show (aka WAR) in 2014. He’s continued to share his talent with the rest of the world, including a role as Assistant Professor at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong.
The ‘Welsh Attenborough’ was on the verge of a career in the British Army when he did an about-turn and studied Ecology at what was then the North East London Polytechnic (the UEL brand did not exist until the 1990s). He now presents nature programmes in his own language for both BBC Wales and S4C.
Better known by her stagename ‘Marina and the Diamonds’, the Greek-Welsh singer-songwriter came second in the BBC’s Sound of 2010 poll (beaten only by Ellie Goulding) and hasn’t looked back since, with three Top 10 albums in the UK. A former student of Music Culture: Theory & Production at UEL, she’s still best known for the 2012 single ‘Primadonna’ but it was possibly her 2015 album ‘Froot’ that is the biggest cause for celebration having reached No. 8 on America’s Billboard 200.
London-born Daljit has both an MA in Politics and an honorary doctorate from UEL. She began her broadcasting career as a field reporter for BBC Home News, then an anchor for ITN World News before moving to the United States. Once there she has been a reporter, anchor or host for the BBC World Service, CNN, Al-Jazeera English and ABC News.
Documentary filmmaker Marc Isaacs received a Bafta TV nomination for his directorial debut Lift in 2002. The 3 minute short showed the residents of a high rise London block as they entered the lift and reacted in different ways to Isaacs and his camera. He has since followed this up with years of creative documentaries of various length for both BBC and Channel 4, looking at topics ranging from white residents’ views of an increasingly multicultural Barking to the secret life of Britain’s long-distance lorry drivers and even polygamy in England with Philip and His Seven Wives. He studied at UEL in the 90s and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate here in 2008. His films can all be viewed on his website: http://www.marcisaacsfilms.com/films
TV farmer Doherty studied animal biology at UEL in the 1990s. He went on to present agricultural shows for both the BBC and Channel 4, most notably Jimmy’s Farm, about the ups and downs of breeding rare pigs. He returned to UEL to receive an honorary doctorate in 2013 and has since become (in 2016) the youngest ever President of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
UK-based actress and choreographer Kaleria was dubbed ‘Bollywood’s Ambassador’ early in her career due to what the Telegraph described as “her near domination of England’s Indian dance scene.” As well as movies, she boasts a solid track record in Western music and arranged dance sequences for music videos by the likes of Kula Shaker and Soul II Soul. She received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from UEL in 1997 having previously studied BA Accounts and Finance here. Today, one of her many dance schools is based nearby in Upton Park.
Besides performing arts, Kaleria is known for her fondness of sports cars and once said: “I had a definite plan from the age of 13. I formed the notion that I would own the following cars in order - MG Midget, Toyota MR2, Mercedes SLK and Porsche. And that's the way it's happened." In actual fact, her career was going so well that she went straight from the Toyota to the Porsche.
Know of any more former UEL media greats that we’ve missed off this list? Get in touch and let us know!