University of Salford appoints new Chancellor

Jackie Kay

The distinguished, award-winning writer of fiction, poetry and plays, Jackie Kay MBE, has been appointed by the University of Salford as its new Chancellor.

Jackie, who takes up the position immediately, succeeds Dr Irene Khan, who stepped down earlier this year after her five-year term.

As well as the honorary role of Chancellor, Jackie will, from 1 January 2015, take up the position of University ‘Writer in Residence’.  In this capacity, she will contribute major commissions that will enhance learning and teaching and the students’ broader experience at the University.

University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Martin Hall, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Jackie to our University. She will inspire our staff, work with our students to help them imagine their future selves and strengthen our role as a civic institution in our wider community.”

Jackie said: “It’s a huge honour to have been chosen to be Chancellor of the University of Salford, and I’m very much looking forward to taking up the role, and to being a hands-on Chancellor, as well as a ‘shaking hands’ Chancellor. As Writer in Residence, the idea of getting to know each department thoroughly and of finding new and pioneering ways to work across disciplines excites me.”

Julia Fawcett OBE, chief executive of The Lowry and member of the University’s Council, said: “Jackie’s appointment is real coup for the University. She is one of the UK’s most respected authors and, as our ‘Writer in Residence’, she will prove a great inspiration to students and staff alike. It is also a great boost to Salford’s artistic community in a wider capacity to have such a high profile figure in a leadership role at an organisation as central to the city’s success as the University.”

Sarah Maxfield, Arts Council England’s Area Director for the North and national lead for higher education, commented: “We very much welcome the appointment of Jackie Kay as the new Chancellor of the University of Salford. There is increasing acknowledgment of the positive value of relationships between artists and universities – and it’s great to see a distinguished writer who lives locally being recognised in this way.”

Jackie was born to a Scottish mother and Nigerian father in Edinburgh and was adopted as a baby by Helen and John Kay, growing up in Glasgow. She studied English at the University of Stirling and her first book of poetry, The Adoption Papers, published in 1991, was a great success, winning the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year and a commendation from the Forward Poetry Prize judges.

Her other awards include the Guardian First Book Award Fiction Prize for her celebrated first novel Trumpet and the Somerset Maugham Award for Other Lovers. She was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her services to literature in 2006.

She writes extensively for the stage, screen and for children. Her play Twice Over was the first by a Black writer to be produced by Gay Sweatshop Theatre Group in 1988. Her plays have been performed at The Royal Exchange and more recently she wrote Manchester Lines for the Library Theatre.

Her drama The Lamplighter looks in depth at the Atlantic slave trade and was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and published by Bloodaxe.  Her first children’s novel, Strawgirl, was published in 2002. In 2010 she published Red Dust Road, an account of her search for her birth parents, which won the Scottish Book of the Year award as well as The London Award.

Jackie has lived in Manchester for over 15 years and is currently Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle and Cultural Fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University.