Skip to the main content

Arts Societies are so essential to the life of UCL, they get their own set of awards. Arts encompasses everything from student media, to shows in the Bloomsbury Theatre. What art societies do brings heart, soul and performance to UCL’s culture. This is a group of talented students, contributing beyond their societies and making life a little sweeter for all of us. Here are this year’s winners…

Winner: Dave Yee

This year’s winner has been chosen based on their valued and varied involvement in the Arts community. In a limited amount of time, they have thrown themselves into activities, ranging from performance, production and beyond. Not only a talent, but a friendly, well-loved member of the arts community, with their impact reaching across multiple societies and shows.

Sadly, they were only at UCL for the year and I know they, and their ranging skills, will be sorely missed by the community, especially Musical Theatre and Stage Crew. We have both been able to witness their talents firsthand and we are very pleased to present the 2020 Officers Award for the Arts to Dave Yee.

Winner: Musical Theatre – Dogfight

Against all odds, a group of students managed to create an impactful, dynamic piece of theatre in the days before lockdown. Dogfight is a show full of laughs and humour - but also manages to tackle major social issues: extreme misogyny, psychological disorders, sexual intimacy. All of this was handled extremely delicately and with an abundance of nuance. The performers, though faced with extremely harrowing and difficult content, were still able to deliver genuine, heartfelt performances. The director and the team behind the show managed to create a performance that remained faithful to the text, while proving to be entertaining and gripping for a current, modern audience. 

Winner: Stage Crew, Live Music Production - Rhapsody

Rhapsody is an incredibly ambitious project to manage and design. For the production of Rhapsody, Stage Crew Society and Live Music Society had to work very closely together. Throughout production and performance, there was constant direct personnel interchange (Charlie Rolfe, Luka Nunar, Haya Al, Joe Taylor, Tahir Khanzada). 

Achieving the correct sound design mix between Rock numbers and ambient vocals was a big challenge to master. The creation of split engineering sections between the audience and on-stage monitors, allowed for greater clarity of the sound on stage, and better mixes for people enjoying the performance in the audience. Stage Crew Society re-configured the Bloomsbury Theatre sound system to allow for a better sound set-up and enabled the recording of all nights of the performance. These recordings were later released as re-mixed audio and used for a performance video.

Stew Crew Society used multiple innovative effects, including delay effects, during multiple songs as well as radical vocal transitions to create atmospheric sound. A special focus of Stew Crew was giving kind and helpful advice to ensure all performers felt comfortable on stage during this large-scale production. 

Winner: Pi Media

Pi Media was founded in 1946 and has over 130 contributors, making it UCL’s oldest and largest student publication. Pi Media has grown from strength to strength and now has over 130 contributors and 167 members, publishing content across three platforms (Pi Online, Pi Magazine and PiTV).

Across all three platforms, Pi produces content relevant to all UCL students, maintaining a multimedia approach that is insightful, innovative, and inclusive. This year Pi-Media has undergone a re-brand with a new logo and re-designed website.

Breaking news coverage was hugely important for Pi in an eventful year. Pi Online, the publication’s largest platform, consistently broke important stories on lecturers’ strikes, the Liberate the University protests and COVID-19. Since September, Pi Online has had 46,400 page views from 98 different countries, reflecting the society’s central role at UCL.


 

In 2019/20, Pi Media strove to be more collaborative and inclusive. The video platform, PiTV, produced a series on UCL Live Music Society’s Rhapsody show that had over 10,000 views on social media. The committee recruited a Diversity and Inclusion Officer and in November, Pi hosted a panel on breaking into the journalism industry, featuring a guest speaker from the BBC. 

​A great achievement for this year; all magazine issues included original UCL student artwork and photography. 

Winner: Dan Barber

Dan’s performance as Johnny in the production ‘American Idiot’ was outstanding on multiple fronts. Dan’s role was vocally demanding both in its difficulty and the particular blend of musical theatre and punk rock that it required. Dan’s vocal performance was not only incredibly executed but consistent across the three shows. Dan delivered a nuanced and developed performance almost entirely through singing. It would have been very easy for an actor playing Johnny to simply let the songs carry their performance but Dan dedicated a huge amount of time both alone and with his fellow actors and director, to create a truly authentic performance. He even learnt the guitar to accompany himself, without the band, in one of the songs. With this song alone he managed to create this beautiful, exposed moment of vulnerability for Johnny that left audiences breathless every night. The brief monologues he had were delivered perfectly and added poignant nuance to his already raw performance. Dan encapsulates everything we believe an incredible performer to be. His dedication is limitless, he is a joy to work with and his performance was one of the most well-rounded, authentic, developed and brave performances of the year.

To highlight Dan’s performance alone in ‘American Idiot’ might appear to be counter-intuitive: ‘American Idiot’ is a show that is deliberately ensemble-based. To not acknowledge that is to miss the point of the show. Yet, this is why what he was able to achieve extends so far beyond the realms of merely what he delivered onstage – his dedication, drive and enthusiasm seeped into the very production itself. He truly led from the front: throughout the rehearsal process, from the first show to the last, his utter commitment to those involved with the production was paramount. 
 

Beyond his laudable ability to bring the best out of other people, however, credit must also be given to Dan’s thorough devotion to shaping, crafting and embodying character. His diligent study of and attention to the sparse dialogue unearthed new meaning, and subsequently his transformation into Johnny night after night became consuming and visceral. His obsession for perfection became manifest. His consummate professionalism, commitment, and sheer talent make him an exceptional candidate for this award.

Winner: Weronika Strzyżyńska

Weronika Strzyzyńska’s article If it weren’t for my parents, I would have dropped out exposed the deeply unfair treatment of disabled students at UCL. The article offers much-needed insight into the struggles faced by students with Disabilities at UCL, honing in on the experience of one student, Daniel, whose story clearly underlines the injustice experienced. 

Weronika’s writing in the article is extraordinary and shows great awareness of the sensitive issues explored, as well as an empathy for the interviewee. This article comes as a companion to a piece outlining the Disabled Students’ Network report on the treatment of disabled students at UCL.

Winner: Cheese Grater Magazine - Laugh4Change

Laught4Change was a collaboration between Cheese Grater Magazine and Student Action for Refugees in partnership with the student charity, ‘Laugh 4 Change’ (founded in Cambridge University) that organises comedy shows across the country raising money for refugee aid.

The organisational and promotional efforts, between UCL Cheese Grater and STAR, formed an important relationship between the two societies that will carry over to another fundraising shows next year. This event helped to build a good relationship with the ‘Laugh 4 Change’ organisation who now have student representatives at UCL to help organise future fundraising shows.

Winner: Dance Society with Social DisDancing

The ‘Social DisDancing’ Project was Dance Societies’ response to the coronavirus situation, which put a halt to all their planned activities for the rest of the academic year. The Dance Society was keen to keep going and the idea for ’Social DisDancing’ was born. Dozens of committee-led videos were released onto their social media pages. The response to these videos was so great that they extended the opportunity to lead on new video content to all their members. They have been producing content for well over a month now, releasing content every single day. Always with the same goal in mind: Keeping people active and connected. From live classes teaching original choreography, to pre-recorded videos teaching beginner techniques, an increasingly large number of students and professional teachers are involved every day. 

Dance Society have set a great example for how clubs and societies can continue to offer their activity online. They are even considering to continue their activity post-lockdown, and potentially offer online classes during holiday periods. A very unexpected success story!

Winner: Jazz Society

Jazz Society ran multiple jams throughout the year to encourage traditionally underrepresented groups to participate. The society has also been promoting an environment free from bias and discrimination. They have identified problems regarding inclusivity at the jams and successfully engaged members in a discussion about cultivating an inclusive environment, jam etiquette and respecting others at all times. New methods to encourage less confident people to play were implemented and were very well received. 

At all audition panels, a Welfare representative was present, to ensure maximum fairness. Jazz Society has made huge efforts to strengthen equality and diversity within their society membership and have worked together and in collaboration with other societies. 

The CultureJam with Gospel Society, Hip Hop and RnB, and Afro Caribbean Society provides members an inclusive space to perform. Each pair of societies performed together to give a more diverse experience to members and encourage students to get into Jazz. 
 

Jazz Society has hosted women’s workshops with Live Music Society to bring women from the arts together to share experiences and advice and to play music. 

​The Society has also set up The Inter-Arts “Diversity in Music Panel” to challenge stereotypes, however sadly this panel had to be postponed because of the campus closure in March 2020. The concept allowed for students to hear a very diverse panel of professional musicians who share their experiences of being marginalised. A great forum for the future, intended to be a safe space for members to share their experiences and find community.

Winner: Björn Franke

Due to challenges faced by the production, Legally Blonde found itself in need of a Musical Director days before their auditions in November 2019. The Musical director is a crucial role to the success of a musical, particularly for a musical like Legally Blonde. Björn stepped up and took on this mammoth task with ease and sensitivity for others. Björn is open about his struggles dealing with larger groups of people all at once and commanding attention, so this was a personal challenge as well as a musical one. 

Whilst most production teams have nearly a year to prepare, he had just weeks to familiarise himself before starting rehearsals with a cast over 20 people. In addition to this, he assembled the largest band of any Musical Theatre show in recent history, gathering musicians from all areas of the Arts and beyond. He did all of this with one of the most complex contemporary musical scores, with instruments never used before in Musical Theatre shows. He not only managed to teach everything to the cast and band in an encouraging and positive way, he was also a joyful presence for other cast members during difficult times and achieved a high standard of musical performance throughout. 

He led from the front of the pit each night, conducting the band and cast. Björn did the cast, band, production team and Arts community proud, but more importantly, he did himself proud by delivering the very best in a very challenging situation. 

Björn’s happy attitude radiates and his passion for music is infectious - he truly cares about the enjoyment and fun of being part of the Arts, and understands that quality often comes from this - something that is all too often forgotten. 

Winner: Livvie Hall

It is an understatement to say that Livvie has gone above and beyond in her role as Pi President. She leads a society of over 150 members with maturity and pragmatism as well as great kindness. The fact that the committee has worked more cohesively this year than previously is a testament to her leadership. Livvie is supremely organised, always on top of daily duties to ensure everything from budgets to equipment rental runs smoothly. She communicates regularly and efficiently with society members and outside parties. Most notably, Livvie represented Pi on BBC Radio 4 in November, offering a campus perspective on the election. Livvie is also quick to step up when other committee members are not able to fulfil their responsibilities. 

Livvie helps to manage Pi’s social media presence, she supports PiTV projects, and she takes a leading role in Pi’s events programme. In the current situation, Livvie has made a huge individual effort to launch the latest magazine issue digitally, coordinating all the promotion and communications. 

Winner: Dance Society 

Each year Dance Society work with a community group to teach vulnerable adults dance routines from their stage show. The student-led project is called Dance-It! and is always highly anticipated by everyone involved and culminates in all participants being invited to the show. They worked with Holborn Community Association this year to deliver dance workshops and performances to around 15 over 55 year olds, tackling social isolation and encouraging physical activity. 

Winner: Drama Society with ‘A Clockwork Orange’

‘A Clockwork Orange’ was Drama Society’s Term Two Bloomsbury Theatre Show. Based on a script by Anthony Burgess himself, it marked quite a departure from shows typically put on by the society. Burgess’ story, made famous by Kubrick’s film, is bold and controversial, and the production did not shy away from those aspects, rising to the challenge of portraying teenage violence on the stage. A collaborative effort between 50+ students and multiple societies - Drama, Film & TV, Stage Crew, PhotoSoc to name a few - the production pulled off a large-scale event to great success. From the outstandingly detailed costumes to the moving, optical-illusion style stage design and simplistic yet memorable marketing, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was different and daring.

Winner: Adam Haddour

Adam has been a devoted member of multiple Arts societies for his entire UCL life, including Jazz, Live Music and Musical Theatre Soc; he has also served as an Live Music Events’ Officer as well as a Social Secretary for both Live Music and Musical Theatre. For the past three years Adam’s presence in the performing arts community has been incredibly significant; he has been involved in the organisation of dozens of successful socials and events, as well as the innovation of some new ones, such as Live Music’s Extrava-band-za, and at least a dozen productions across these societies.

Adam has been described as the life and soul of UCL’s arts community. It’s hard to find someone in the Arts who doesn’t know Adam and even harder to find someone who has a bad word to say about him. Not only is he supremely talented but he is kind and humble. He has welcomed so many people into the Arts community and is a constant friendly face.

Adam has consistently proven himself to be a highly active member across the Arts community at UCL. He has served on both Musical Theatre Society committee (one year) and Live Music Society committee (2 years), performed in 3 Rhapsody productions, taken on leading roles in 7 Musical Theatre shows, performed in galas, sang in Jazz shows, performed in House Band and Function Band, organised holidays and socials, and been a friendly face for the entire community. Adam is described as a gift to the Arts community. He consistently champions it and those within it and is a kind, sincere, moral, talented member. He knows everyone and everyone knows him; Adam is inter-societal by nature! 

Winner: Art Society

Art Society has grown from strength to strength and now has a membership of 436 students. The society has put on a range of activities this year, including socials and events. Overall the number of events has doubled this year, with around 4 events happening per week. Art Society have hosted the first-ever 3D art making course, four block-printing workshops and two ‘Give it a Go’ (GIAG) sessions. These GIAG sessions were really popular and included a free street art tour and an open life drawing session with over 90 people participating. Art Society have also hosted three themed events to encourage exhibition submissions. This year there were also some new collaborations in the making: Art Society has put on workshops and life drawing classes with Pi Media, Writer’s Society, Anatomy and Pole Fitness, Free Hype, Kinesis, Museum, Art Business, History of Art, Environmental Collective and LGBT+ network. 

 

Art Society have also introduced a new weekly newsletter, new Facebook and Whatsapp member groups and started to build up an active Instagram account. 

Winner: Live Music Society

Live Music Society have achieved big things this year: They’ve reached the highest number of paid memberships in society’s history and have put on the most successful and ambitious Bloomsbury Show, selling more tickets than ever before. 

To engage with as many students as possible, Live Music Society has established a range of new opportunities for community outreach, including a This Girl Can workshop, various performances at Union events, Pi Media launches, as well as Singing Workshops. The society has also worked in collaboration with Jazz Society, Pi Media and Stage Crew. 

Live Music Society has a great and ongoing relationship with UCL Accommodation, supporting performances at events like the opening of Astor College, allowing opportunities to perform at welcome parties in halls and promote themselves to a wider audience. The society has invested in brand new high-quality equipment, with an ongoing revamp of the soundproof room including new lighting, piano tuning, amp purchases, and keyboard maintenance. 

Live Music Society has transformed a previously clunky method of room booking to an automated online system, allowing each member to organise their own timings automatically.