When Carol Leeming enrolled onto the Youth and Community Work course in the early 1980s at what was then called Leicester Polytechnic, she couldn’t have imagined she would be receiving the ‘alumna of the month’ 39 years later.
Since leaving Leicester Polytechnic, her relationship with De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has grown from strength to strength, from getting involved in supervising placements to attending the launch of the Talent25 research project.
Carol has now been named as ‘alumna of the month’ for receiving an MBE for her services to arts and culture in Leicester as a poet and playwright. The alumnus of the month nominations are open all year round. Once an alumnus gets nominated by either a fellow alumni, student, or member of staff, they are added to the pool of nominations.
Winners are then selected based upon those who have made exceptional contributions to their field of profession, or have had a significant impact on their local community.
Carol said: “I got an email to say I was alumna of the month. I think I received it because of my MBE. It has been a rollercoaster, receiving the MBE in the New Year to now getting alumna of the month. It is fantastic news a lovely profile raiser.”
Carol studied on the certificate in Youth and Community work course in the early 1980s. She said: “I chose to study at Leicester Polytechnic as a single parent and a mature student at the age of 21 because of the course. The polytechnic was a good choice, it had a good reputation and it was a no brainer.
“I also came to the polytechnic because of my cousin, Earl Robinson, who studied the same course in the early 1960s.”
Carol was based in the Scraptoft Campus which she said was a ’creative and dynamic campus’.
She explained: “It was the national lead in Dance and Performing Arts.
“I did my workshops in the Scraptoft campus but then got involved as a singer in the music workshops. I did a jazz workshop with Sheila Jordan, a New York jazz singer. Gavin Bryars who worked in the Arts, Design and Humanities (ADH) Music, Technology and Innovation Faculty while I was studying there was an important role model for me too.
“I was a volunteer at the Highfields Community, I enjoyed working with people. I came from a working class Afro-Caribbean community. Leicester Polytechnic and the course changed my life for the better as I embarked on a new career.”
Lifelong learning is an important part of DMU Alumnus of the month's life
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A DMU alumnus is honoured to receive 'Alumnus of the month'
Carol felt the course started to evolve while she was studying. The course started to incorporate more Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and women. She was involved in the women’s movement and the black people’s movement.
She said: “I and other students led some changes in the curriculum, as the course changed dramatically after I finished it.”
After finishing the course, Carol went into Youth and Community work in Highfields, in an unemployed drop-in centre. As she had an interest in arts she incorporated this into her community work where she helped unemployed people with writing and a publication.
Towards the end of the 1980s, Carol changed her career and began working in the music industry. She had her first independent record deal in 1988 and her career went from strength to strength. In the 1990s she went on the chart show and Danny Boyle used a song she co-wrote for the film Trainspotting soundtrack.
She said: “I was living the dream, travelling all over the world performing, I was a house music diva.”
Carol came back to Leicester at the end of the 1990s as her mother was ill. She embarked on a journey to help lift music especially in Afro Caribbean Arts in Leicester. BBC Live and Leicester City Council approached her to perform at Large City a music festival to be televised nationally.
She is now a director, poet, playwright, singer, songwriter, music and a performer in the visual and performing arts.
She said: “I love lifelong learning, I apply what I have learnt which is part of my success. After leaving Leicester Polytechnic I did arts and media courses and gained new skills and knowledge.”
In 2000, Carol started Dare to Dive part-time, which is an arts company for people especially from the BAME community, to dare to be centre stage as artists, helping to develop skills, confidence helping to develop skills, confidence and profile. For the last seven years she has been doing this full time.
She said: “I help people to find the courage to find their light, being a performer and my experience in music helps people.”
Carol began a relationship with DMU when she presented on Demon FM. She was on the Demon FM board until she retired this year. She became a BBC National Urban music nominator and successfully nominated a DMU student for a bursary.
She has done a guest lecture called Marketing Artists in the Music Industry, which was organised by Tony Graves, Associate Professor in the Arts and Festivals Management BA (Hons) course.
She was a judge for DMU along with three other people at the LCB Depot for a competition on digital installation.
In a professional capacity, Carol was a Placement Supervisor in the Arts and Festivals Management course where after she employed alumni who graduated from the course at Mainstream partnership within a regional BAME arts organisation.
Carol has also been involved in Cultural Exchanges, an arts and performance festival, and she did a presentation about black history during Black History month around three years ago.
Posted on Friday 15th February 2019