Golden Globe actor Ruth Wilson champions the arts at Nottingham

Thursday, 13 January 2022

The celebrated British actor, producer and University of Nottingham alumna Ruth Wilson is backing a new national campaign to showcase the enormous impact of the arts on society and the economy.

Ruth studied History at the university before training as an actor and going on to win a Golden Globe for her performance in The Affair, and plaudits for her many high-profile roles including His Dark Materials, Luther, and Mrs Wilson.

Ruth has been nominated as the university’s Creative Spark, in a national campaign by Universities UK called #MadeAtUni. The campaign is celebrating more than 100 well known alumni from British universities as Creative Sparks to highlight the importance of the creative industries and to celebrate the huge contribution of universities to the arts sector.

Photos © Anthony Pileggi

Creative Sparks #MadeAtUni is also lobbying the government to promote the importance of creative education and of creativity to the UK economy. The creative industries were worth more than £115 billion to the UK economy pre-Covid and are vital to recovery post-pandemic. At the same time, the number of students enrolled in creative courses is declining and a shortfall of skill in the sector is forecast.

After graduating from the University of Nottingham with a history degree in 2003, and then drama training at LAMDA, Ruth Wilson has become a highly celebrated and sought-after actor in theatre, television, and film, winning a Golden Globe and two Olivier awards as well as Tony and BAFTA nominations. She was given an Honorary Degree by the university in 2017 and in her speech paid tribute to the university for its cultural offering, not least her experience at the New Theatre, the student-run theatre company on University Park:

© University of Nottingham

“I always had an inkling that I wanted to act, but I never admitted it,” recalls Ruth. “I hadn’t found a community of people that shared my passion, but it was ignited and nurtured when I found the New Theatre. I explored acting, directed my first play and devised a show, The Hush, for the Edinburgh Festival with Carrie Cracknell – her aesthetic vision and ability to stage a play was impressive, even as a student. I met some of my closest friends here, including Carrie and Michael Longhurst, who directed me in Constellations on Broadway.

“To have three years to explore my interest in theatre in a place where there was real creative freedom, with no performance pressure or professional critique, was invaluable. It was at the end of my time at Nottingham that decided to give acting a go.”

Ruth added: “I could never have imagined where I am today when I left Nottingham. But I had a dream. In my honorary degree speech, I shared the advice that I tell myself every day: follow your passion and go where your heart lies – you never know where it may lead. To thine own self be true.”

© Anthony Pileggi

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, Professor Shearer West, said: “We are very proud that Ruth Wilson has been recognised as part of this campaign. She is just one example of how our university is helping to nurture the much-needed talent, innovation, and skills required for the UK’s creative industries to prosper and for the nation to recover post-pandemic.”

Alistair Jarvis CBE, Chief Executive, Universities UK said: “Universities are places where creative ideas flourish, where innovation happens, and where businesses employing thousands of people are started. They’re where the nation’s creative sparks are ignited.”

Other Creative Sparks include:

  • Greg Davies – Brunel University alumni, comedian and actor
  • Keith Chapman – Norwich University of the Arts alumni, creator of Bob the Builder and PAW Patrol
  • Cressida Cowell MBE – University of Oxford alumni, author of How to Train Your Dragon
  • Laura Mvula – Birmingham City University alumni, musician
  • Roger Waters and Nick Mason, Pink Floyd – University of Westminster alumni, musicians
  • Ruth Wilson – University of Nottingham alumni, actress best known for The Affair, Luther, His Dark Materials, and Mrs Wilson
  • Nish Kumar – Durham University alumni, comedian and presenter
  • Krysty Wilson-Cairns – Royal Conservatoire of Scotland alumni, co-writer of BAFTA winning movie 1917
  • Lisa McGee – Queens University Belfast alumni, screenwriter of Derry Girls
  • Steven Knight – UCL alumni, writer and creator of BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders

Click here to read the full list of Creative Sparks, or here to watch the campaign video, voiced by Greg James. You can even play the online game to see which “Creative Spark” you are here.

An article featuring a full interview with Ruth Wilson when she visited campus to receive her honorary degree in July 2017 is available here.


Story credits

For more information, please contact Emma Rayner, Media Relations Manager on 07738 291242 or or Steven Jeffries, Communications and Campaigns Manager, Universities UK on 07464 928980 or

Emma Rayner - Media Relations Manager, Faculty of Arts
Phone: 0115 748 4413

Notes to editors:

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The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2023, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide Sports University of the Year twice in three years, most recently in 2021. We are ranked seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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