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Durham University

University and City: Growing together

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In celebration of culture

(14 January 2020)

Whether you're into music, art, theatre or sport, there's something for everyone in a packed month of cultural events. Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge picks out a few highlights. 

It is a great source of pride to me, as I know it is to many of you, how vibrant a cultural scene we have here in Durham. For a small city we have much to offer in terms of music, theatre, art and sport, not to mention history and heritage.

It makes me smile how often visitors are surprised by what variety and quality they find in Durham when arriving here for the first time.

Durham Vocal Festival returns

One example of this is Durham Vocal Festival, which returns later this month. Nine days of fabulous vocal music to suit all tastes, from world-class artists such as opera star and Durham University Chancellor, Sir Thomas Allen, to the premiere of an opera written by local school children.

The student acapella group Northern Lights will return following their sold-out show at the Gala Theatre last year, our College chapel choirs will present a massed Evensong at Durham Cathedral and there will be choir competitions and children’s shows.

Durham University has long been known for excellence in music. Our Music Department is regularly ranked the best in the UK and our students perform over 80 concerts a year, entertaining around 6,000 people.

So, we’re pleased to be sponsoring the Vocal Festival and proud that our staff and students will again be right at the heart of it. Visit for full details.

Curtain up at The Assembly Rooms

If drama is more your passion the Assembly Rooms Theatre is now open again following a £2.4m refurbishment and has a fantastic line-up for the months ahead.

The Durham Drama Festival returns in early February, showcasing the best of our student talent. Many of our young actors and writers go on to great professional success, so this is your chance to see them before they’re famous and at very reasonable prices.

Art, sport and much more

Round the corner at Palace Green Library, the Norman Cornish art exhibition ‘The Sketchbooks’ continues until mid-February. And if you fancy having a go yourself, starting in late January artist Paul Raymond will run a four-week Alternative Drawing School exploring the themes of the exhibition.

And we can’t forget sport. Over at our newly upgraded Sports and Wellbeing Park you can catch top-class women’s basketball and hockey, or get in shape for the New Year at our new fitness centre. Durham has been the UK’s number one team sport university for the past six years and we’re increasingly putting this expertise to work for the benefit of local communities and clubs, through coaching, mentoring and sharing of our facilities at Maiden Castle.

Our new Term starts on Monday (13 January) but before then we have our Winter Graduation, which will see over 1,500 students graduating in Durham Cathedral during five ceremonies on Thursday and Friday (9-10 January).

These events, with all their tradition and pageantry, are also part of the City’s cultural life. They bring many visitors into Durham and support local businesses in what otherwise could be a quiet period at the start of the New Year.

It’s a privilege to play our part in the rich tapestry of cultural life in Durham and my invitation to you for 2020 is, to paraphrase a long-running ad slogan: come and see what you can do.

This article was first published in the Durham Advertiser.