Encouraging talent to flourish
Andrew Davidson is an alumnus and proactive supporter of the University of Brighton, regularly attending university events and endorsing our campaigns. He is one of a growing number of alumni who understand the merits of giving back to the university and inspiring fellow future alumni to succeed. Andrew is the generous sponsor of one of our Breakthrough Awards, which he has poignantly dedicated to recently deceased rising star Khadija Saye.
“I am a proud Brighton alumnus (it says so in my Twitter bio so it must be true). The university was perfect for me – right course, right city, the right people. But it didn’t start like that.
“I went to the kind of sausage-machine school that put a UCAS form in my hands without much thought and landed me on an unsuitable course at a very good university that was no good for me. I soon dropped out but tried again a couple of years later at Brighton and thrived in a degree that my school, with its narrow range of ‘academic’ subjects and unenlightened careers advice, would never have imagined existed (Visual Culture, since you ask).
“The path to higher education is less straightforward these days – tuition fees, the rising cost of living and graduate unemployment mean that the choice to study at university is no longer a no-brainer.
“My own experiences – the highs and lows – and this changing landscape have made education my passion and the basis of my career. In the past 15 years, whether I’ve been designing an engineering board game for five-year-olds or leading backstage tours for teenagers, I’ve been motivated by a desire to make learning inspiring and relevant.
“On a personal level, it’s led me to train as an Arts Emergency mentor and to sponsor one of the university’s Breakthrough Awards, which support students through a hardship fund as well as rewarding excellence on particular courses.
“And for the past year, I’ve been involved in Early Risers, a mentoring scheme stuffed full of creative young people. One of those people was the artist Khadija Saye. I didn’t get to know her well, I only met her five or six times, but I immediately liked her. She had such warmth, a beaming smile, a quiet and kindly confidence, and real poise. She was super smart and she was going places.
“At only 24, her work was being exhibited at the Venice Biennale (the World Cup for the visual arts). She was due to speak at a conference I am involved in this week, in the slot taken last year by the Director of Tate Modern; that’s how good she was. I think one day she would have won the Turner Prize, or probably invented something better. I think in 30 years I would have said “I knew her before she was famous'”.
“Khadija and her mother Mary died in Grenfell Tower on 14 June. I am finishing writing this after a few days in Venice, the bittersweet highlight of which was seeing Khadija’s beautiful photos on display in the Diaspora Pavilion, a huge recognition of her talent and potential by the International Curators Forum.
“I’m an even prouder Brighton alumnus knowing that from this year onwards, I’ll be sponsoring the Khadija Saye Breakthrough Award for Visual Culture, my small way of honouring her memory and making some future creative paths to fulfilling careers a little smoother.”