BBC Look North presenter Jeff Brown officially opens new £1.5million media facility at the University of Sunderland

BBC Look North presenter Jeff Brown returned to his home city to officially open the University of Sunderland’s new state of the art £1.5million media complex.

By Neil Fatkin
Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 6:24 pm

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The facility includes a new £1.1million photography centre, £300,000 new virtual production studio and a hi-tech studio for the University’s official radio station, Spark.

Jeff, who grew up in Sunderland and who’s first job was reporting on speedway for the Sunderland Echo, said: “I first visited this site in 1975 as a 14-year-old boy on a careers trip to the shipyards.

"Facilities like this clearly weren’t around in my day but if you’ve got that drive, if you know what you want and have that passion to achieve it, then you can make it happen.

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"These facilities are amazing and will just make getting there so much easier. Film, broadcasting and photography has always been a massive part of my life and so I’m absolutely delighted to be here to open all three facilities. To all the students who are going to use them, good luck and enjoy it.”

After being shown around the studios Jeff quipped: “They’re better than what we have at the BBC and so we might hire them out sometime.”

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The new Northern Centre of Photography is kitted out with architect-designed breakout spaces with access to a new digital Incubator, which supports students exploring freelance work.

Look North presenter Jeff Brown at the controls of the mixing desk of the new Spark radio studio. Picture by FRANK REID

In August, work was completed on the 4K-ultra high definition virtual production studio at the David Puttnam Media Centre. The studio includes the same technology used by the BBC for its Tokyo Olympics coverage including a wireless-linked handheld camera to track people’s movement and high-grade green-screen walls and flooring which allows students to superimpose an array of backgrounds.

Spark’s new Studio 5 includes an electronically operated adjustable desk and camera system which allows students to stream interviews.

Academic Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries, Professor Arabella Plouviez said: “I think working in a professional space everyday allows students to learn what it’s like to work in a professional capacity and enables them to produce their best work.

Jeff Brown in the new Green Room of Arabella Arts Centre at The University of Sunderland Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries. Picture by FRANK REID

"It’s so important for creative subjects for students to be back on campus and they all seem really appreciative of these new facilities – even more so after the disruption of the pandemic.”

Vice-chancellor David Bell added: “The big difference now is we can provide students with industry standard facilities which means students can go to prospective employers and show they’re fully versed in the use of this equipment.

"We’ve had really positive feedback from students.”

It’s a sentiment shared by the faculty’s students with mature student Ian Burns, 53, describing the new Centre of Photography as “like chalk and cheese” when compared to the old facility.

Jeff Brown in one of the studios in the new £1.1m Northern Centre of Photography. Picture by FRANK REID

He added: “In addition to better technology you’ve also got more space to share work and the magnetic wall to help display and process your images. I would certainly hope being able to work in a professional environment will help when it comes to making career progression.”

Fellow Photography Video and Digital Imaging student, Amelia Verity, 20, said: “I love these facilities. They’re absolutely amazing and a huge jump from what we had previously. Working in this environment has given me a real confidence boost and I would one day like to work in the fashion industry.”

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University of Sunderland Vice-chancellor Sir David Bell at the opening of the refurbished and enhanced media facilities within the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries. Picture by FRANK REID. Picture by FRANK REID
Arabella Plouviez, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries. Picture by FRANK REID
Student Ian Burns said the new facility is like "chalk and cheese" when compared to the old one. Picture by FRANK REID