Arts dream come true

15th October 2004 at 01:00
If Jackie Fisher has made enemies on her rise to the top, Vee Wilkinson is certainly not one of them.

Ms Wilkinson, head of performing arts, had carried a vision for 20 years - and Ms Fisher made it reality.

Her department was spread across four campuses and she dreamt of having a state-of-the-art performance academy where all students could work under one roof.

So within weeks of Jackie Fisher's arrival, she went knocking on her door.

"I told her what I wanted and within five minutes she said yes." Just four years later, that building, costing pound;21.5 million, was completed. And Ms Wilkinson has not stopped smiling since.

She said: "We were coming from a position where the most talented people were having to go to London to train. Now we have the world-class facilities to nurture that talent in the region.

"The aim is to create synergy where media, dance, music and performance students are all intermingling and reacting."

The academy has a 250-seat theatre, 10 recording studios, 10 music rehearsal rooms, a radio station, TV studio and nine dance studios. It is the most advanced college media and arts centre in the UK, with all the rooms interconnected and wired up.

"Some of the technology we have wasn't even invented when we started building two years ago," said Jeff McCall, Newcastle's director of estates.

Ms Fisher's goal is to provide world-class facilities throughout the college, and a new building has been approved for the beauty, sport and tourism department.

"To refurbish and recreate all our buildings would take pound;120m," she said. "We are spending building-by-building as we move forward."

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