On the day one of the great names in cinema history is to give a public lecture there, the University of Leicester Richard Attenborough Centre will also be naming its hall in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, who opened the Centre in May 1997.
In a ceremony to be held on Monday 12 November the hall will be named the Diana Princess of Wales Hall, commemorating the Princess’s visit shortly before her death, when she spent a morning informally chatting to students and looking at their work.
The second Richard Attenborough Centre Public Lecture, entitled The Moral Imagination, will be given by internationally acclaimed film director Lord Puttnam. David Puttnam became a life peer in 1997. His movie career encompassed such productions as Midnight Express, Chariots of Fire, The Killing Fields and The Mission. He retired from film production in 1998 to concentrate on his work in education, and is Chairman of the General Teaching Council, a member of the Education Standards Task Force and Chairman of the Trustees of the National Teaching awards.
Lord Attenborough commented: “When Princess Diana died I was anxious that we should commemorate publicly that she had visited the Centre and so we asked the Home Office if we could call the assembly hall after her. David Puttnam was a friend of Princess Diana, as my wife and I were, and it seemed appropriate that we should arrange his lecture for the same evening.”
The £2 million Richard Attenborough Centre for Disability and the Arts opened in 1997 after five years of fundraising on a local and national level, including a contribution from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and a major donation from the National Lottery.
A national architectural competition was held by the Royal Institute of British Architects and The Independent to choose a design for the arts centre which would meet the particular needs of disabled people, enabling them to engage in every area of artistic expression. From 128 entries, the commission was won by Ian Taylor of Bennetts Associates, in part because he had discussed issues of access with many groups of people with disabilities in order to produce a centre to meet as many needs as possible.
Lord Attenborough’s involvement with the project began in 1991 and he has remained an enthusiastic and active patron of the Centre. His family has longstanding links with the University of Leicester, as he explained: “I feel tremendous nostalgia for the University. We lived on campus. My father was Principal and was responsible for creating the circumstances in which it became a university in its own right rather than the university college it had been.
“A lot of things connect me to Leicester. The University named a building after my father, they awarded David and me honorary degrees and we were made Freemen of the City. Even though I wasn’t born there, it’s home.”
It was at Lord Attenborough’s suggestion that the Princess of Wales came to formally open the Centre. Of the many pictures that commemorate her visit, one press photograph taken by the Press Association’s John Stillwell has since become one of the most widely used images of the Princess.
The occasion will form one of the highlights of the University’s 80th anniversary year. Established in 1921 as a memorial to those who had suffered in the First World War, the University College’s first students – all ladies – formed a class of nine. Eighty years later the University now has almost 17,000 students.
Dr Eleanor Hartley, Director of the Richard Attenborough Centre said: “We are delighted that we will be commemorating what was a very happy visit by the Princess of Wales in 1997 and that Lord Puttnam and Lord Attenborough will be with us for this celebration.”
Note to editors: There will be a brief picture opportunity between 8.15 pm and 8.20 pm on Monday 12 November 2001 at the Richard Attenborough Centre, Lancaster Road, Leicester. Please note, for reasons of overcrowding this will be in the upstairs gallery of the Centre.
For further information on the work of the Richard Attenborough Centre please contact Dr Eleanor Hartley, Director, Richard Attenborough Centre, University of Leicester, telephone 0116 252 2455, facsimile 0116 252 5165, email RACentre@le.ac.uk.
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