LORD ATTENBOROUGH: Aspirational, inspiring and creative

Posted by am74 at Aug 25, 2014 07:50 AM |
Tributes to figure with huge energy and dynamism who was devoted to Leicester
  • The Attenborough brothers in 2006
  • Lord Attenborough's portrait
  • The Attenborough brothers in 1970
  • Lord Attenborough and Princess Diana
  • Portrait of Lord Attenborough
  • Lord Attenborough with a portrait of his father
  • Lord Attenborough
  • The Attenborough brothers
  • Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Lord Attenborough and Ather Mirza
  • lmaAttenboroughRO12a.jpg

Lord Attenborough, who has died aged 90,  had a lifelong association with the University of Leicester and the city.  Tributes have been paid to him and a dedicated site created last year to mark his 90th birthday provides a living record of people’s memories of him.  Watch the video below or access via this website.

Lord Attenborough was raised with his brothers on the campus of the University of Leicester where his father, Fred Attenborough, was the Principal of the University College –the forerunner to the University. Their former home, College House, is still located on the University site.

Lord Attenborough was a frequent visitor to the University and a supporter of the institution. In 1970 he became an honorary graduate and in 2006 he was made a Distinguished Honorary Fellow – the highest award the University can bestow. You can watch a video of his response here.

He helped found the inclusive arts centre at the University of Leicester to which he gave his name.  Now housed in a dedicated building bearing his name, Embrace Arts is a multi-use inclusive arts centre, with a history of promotion and encouragement of engagement in the arts by people with disabilities. Open to all, its award-winning building houses a 120-seater performance area, three studios, and an exhibition gallery.  The centre was formally opened in 1997 by Diana, Princess of Wales, who was accompanied by Lord Attenborough. View a news bulletin from 1997 about the visit and read Lord Attenborough's address.

Lord Attenborough’s son, Michael, is also an honorary graduate and supporter of the University of Leicester. Lord Attenborough’s brother, Sir David Attenborough, is also associated with the University of which he is both an honorary graduate and Distinguished Honorary Fellow. The University’s arboretum is named after Sir David while the University’s Attenborough Building is named after their father.



VCVice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester Professor Sir Robert Burgess paid tribute to Lord Attenborough’s ‘sheer energy and dynamism’, adding that he was ‘aspirational, inspiring and creative.’

He said: "Dickie Attenborough, as he was affectionately known by many, was a great supporter of the University of Leicester where he grew up - his father was Principal of the then University College.  We were particularly pleased that he was keen to offer his continuing support to the University through becoming Patron of the Richard Attenborough Centre, which bears his name, and we have taken great delight in welcoming him to the campus on many occasions.

"I am deeply saddened, as I know members of the University are, to hear the news. It is a great loss to us all. He was a wonderful actor,a splendid director and a marvellous person who was always encouraging and supportive.He was a great contributor to many different aspects of society in a very effective way."

In an interview commissioned last year by Embrace Arts, the University of Leicester’s inclusive arts centre, Professor Burgess recalled first meeting Lord Attenborough before he became Vice-Chancellor at a lecture the Peer had sponsored at the University with then Culture minister Chris Smith.

Lord Attenborough made his way through the lecture theatre to personally greet the incoming Vice-Chancellor

Professor Burgess said: “There was a huge amount of warmth and a huge amount of contact – within seconds you felt you had known him all of your life.

“I remember walking out of the lecture theatre with him and thinking it is terrifically exciting because one of my first recollections of him was going to see one of his movies, Oh What a Lovely War,  in the sixties and being terribly impressed with the movie. I never thought I would meet the person behind it.

“The reason he grew up in Leicester was because his father was Principal of the University College, the forerunner to the University of Leicester. In terms of the city, Dickie Attenborough was always very positive about Leicester.  But then if you think about Leicester, and you think about the values expressed in his movies, diversity and equality –that I would always say we are good at in Leicester- those are values that he held very dear and they are very clear in his movies and in what he said.

“It was really good that someone of his distinction,  who was so distinguished, devoted so much time to Leicester.  He was a regular attendee at the Richard Attenborough Centre Advisory Board and he made a huge difference.  He was always aspirational about what we should be doing - he was inspiring and creative.”

Professor Burgess said Lord Attenborough’s extensive links and contacts also benefitted the University with influential speakers and guests attending events on campus.

One of the things that always impressed me was the sheer energy and dynamism of the individual,” added Professor Burgess.

You can listen to Professor Burgess recount his memories of Lord Attenborough here.


Louisa Milburn Louisa Milburn, co-director of Embrace Arts, the University of Leicester arts centre housed in the Richard Attenborough Centre, said:

A long time supporter of disability and the arts, Richard spearheaded the campaign that led to the opening of the Richard Attenborough Centre in 1997.

“The Centre's design won awards for its accessibility - at a time before legislation made this a requirement. The Richard Attenborough Centre continues to champion inclusivity through its engagement with disability audiences, artists and community groups and its involvement in the national arts and disability scene.

“Richard was passionate about access to high quality arts provision for everyone and Embrace Arts gives opportunities to engage, create and experience a wide variety of activity: from creative learning to a vibrant events programme - all housed in the Richard Attenborough Centre at the University of Leicester. 

“When I arrived at the University in 2005, Richard was one of the first people to contact me to congratulate me on my appointment. He continued to be a great supporter of the centre and a personal mentor, giving support and advice right up until he became ill.

“Richard was a great believer in creating positive change and was excited about the planned gallery extension at Embrace Arts due to open in 2015. His disability and the arts legacy will continue through our future programmes that will explore new ways to ensure the arts are accessible to all

You can listen to Louisa’s memories of Lord Attenborough, along with those of a number of others, here.

Louisa Milburn reflects on the life and legacy of Lord Attenborough on The Conversation


Former Vice-Chancellor of the University Dr Ken Edwards said: "Dickie (for it became clear that he was happy for me to address him thus) Attenborough was warm-hearted, generous and kind. His success and fame and his elevation to the House of Lords did not in any way reduce his feelings of concern for others, especially those who had suffered misfortune. The University owes a great deal to him, while for me it has been a great privilege to have known such a wonderful man."

Eleanor Hartley, founding director of the Richard Attenborough Centre, said: "I was very upset when I heard the news. He was such an influence on my life for the last 25 years.

Eleanor Hartley"He believed in using his influence and resources to help people. He worked tirelessly to make the Richard Attenborough Centre a reality and changed the lives of many of us who were involved in the Centre, either as staff or students.

"He was a good person."

You can access more tributes, images, video and information here.

The site was created to mark Lord Attenborough’s 90th birthday in August 2013, by Embrace Arts at the University of Leicester and Phoenix who reached out to people in Leicester whose lives Richard had touched and asked them to recall their experiences and memories. This website includes more detailed interviews and histories as well as Attenborough material from the East Midlands Oral History Archive. It provides a living record of these memories

You can read Professor Burgess’s introduction on the occasion of Lord Attenborough being bestowed a Distinguished Honorary Fellowship here:

Further tributes will be posted on the Embrace Arts website.