New video remembers the beginnings of the University

Commemorative film reveals the story of our creation.

As we approach the centenary of our founding, we have released a new video, So that they may have life, which looks at the creation of the University.    

The film was produced over the summer of 2018 and stars University staff, students and alumni, representing both the modern day campus, and campus during World War One when the Fielding Johnson Building was a military hospital.

In the film, we hear the words of local doctor, Dr Astley Clarke, as he responds to an editorial in the Leicester Daily Post newspaper. The paper suggested the creation of a university for the people of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland as a living memorial to those who made sacrifices during the First World War.

Dr Clarke wrote a letter of support to the paper. It is these words which we can hear in the film:

“To the honour of those who took their part in the Great War
To the glory of those gallant fighters who came through, and
To the memory of those devoted heroes who gave their lives to the cause of freedom.
Now, every material asset a person possesses may flee; education alone is an asset of which an individual cannot be robbed. 
Let us, therefore offer higher education as our war memorial.”

Dr Astley Clarke, 26 November 1917

Dr Clarke, an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps was the University’s first benefactor. When the War came to an end on 11 November 1918, he donated £100 to establish the ‘Leicester University Fund’ in celebration of peace and for the founding of a university as a memorial. This inspired many local people to do the same over the next few years, in a process which today we would call crowd funding. The University opened in 1921 as the University College of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

The story of the modern day university is led by Lily McCurdy, Dr Clarke’s great-great-great niece who graduated from the University with a PGCE in 2018.

Lily said: “My great-great-great aunt married Astley Clarke, but I’ve also got the connection with Percy Gee who’s my great-great grandfather. It’s absolutely an amazing opportunity to be asked to be part of such a fantastic film. Everyone’s worked so hard to make it happen, I just feel honoured to be part of it and to be related to someone who played such a big role in the University.”

This film was written and storyboarded by members of the Division of External Relations, and filmed and edited by Leicestershire production company Affixius Films.

Find out more about our centenary.