Leeds Dame turns 95

Dame Fanny Waterman.  Picture by Gerard Binks

Dame Fanny Waterman. Picture by Gerard Binks

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Dame Fanny Waterman – the driving force behind The Leeds International Piano Competition – turned 95 yesterday.

And despite her plans to retire from the world-renowned contest after this year’s event, the inspirational widow shows no signs of slowing down.

She is already turning her attention to two ambitious new projects. The first is to introduce more youngsters to classical music “because the audiences are getting smaller and smaller because the older people are dying off”.

The second is to forge links between her beloved competition and the UK’s capital city, in what she sees as an essential step to maximise its potential.

She said: “All the other competitions are connected with their capital city, we are not.”

In previous years the Oakwood great-grandmother has been known to notch up a staggering eight birthday celebrations but this year she settled for just a couple.

Last week she was invited to the House of Lords “to celebrate my devotion to the competition”.

She said: “I received marvellous good wishes from the Lord Mayor of Leeds, read out in the House of Lords.”

And yesterday she enjoyed a quiet celebration with family.

Dame Fanny explained the secret to her zest for life, saying simply: “I love what I do.”

The world-famous music teacher has introduced millions of children to the piano through her tutorial manuals.

And it’s now over half a century since she came up with the idea of the contest credited with putting Leeds on the global map and launching the careers of maestros including Romania’s Radu Lupu.

This September, Chinese pianist Lang Lang will perform in Leeds for the first time to raise money for “The Leeds”.

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