‘It’s time Leeds woke up to its musical jewel’

COMPETITION FOUNDER: Dame Fanny Waterman sitting at a piano at Leeds Civic Hall. PIC: Gary Longbottom
COMPETITION FOUNDER: Dame Fanny Waterman sitting at a piano at Leeds Civic Hall. PIC: Gary Longbottom
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The founder of the renowned Leeds International Piano Competition has issued a rallying call for the city to get behind the contest on its return next year.

Dame Fanny Waterman says people across the world know about the contest and yet, in her experience, the average person in Leeds does not.

The 93-year old great-grandmother was speaking at Leeds Civic Hall, where she requested the use of the building for the last few nights of the 2015 competition. The contest was founded in 1961 and occurs every three years, making 2015 its Golden Anniversary celebration event.

Dame Fanny is urging council bosses to help drive major publicity for the event while the competition is going on.

“Thank you for this opportunity to speak about Leeds International Piano Competition and its Golden Anniversary,” Dame Fanny told councillors. “We have introduced to the world some of the greatest pianists of our time. Yet if I walk out of this hall and I stop a passerby and ask ‘have you heard of the Leeds International Piano Competition?’ they give me a blank stare. This has to be rectified.”

She joked that on her many global travels, whenever she mentions Leeds it is “no longer your football team but the competition” which people are reminded of. “At the time of the competition, my taxi driver in Warsaw would ask me who has got through to the second stage. I don’t think anybody here would realise it’s actually going on.” she said. “I’m not asking for money, but help with making [the city] more beautiful at the time of the competition.”

The competition is credited with putting Leeds on the global cultural map and launching the careers of numerous maestros including Romania’s Radu Lupu.

Ambassadors include former Burmese political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, who said watching the competition was a source of solace during her 15 years of house arrest.

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