Jeremy Irons – The National Student Interview

SOURCE:  Jeremy Irons: “the arts are pivotal to our future”

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Sally Hall  – 26th January 2017

After a long and distinguished career in film and theatre, Jeremy Irons is a man with a deep understanding of the performing arts and how art can inspire and drive change in the world. A keen activist, Jeremy has long-used his fame to support charities and help further causes close to his heart.

He now turns his attention to education, having accepted the position as Chancellor of liberal arts institution Bath Spa University.

Jeremy will be championing the role of the arts in wider society, the benefits of an arts education in producing well-rounded, engaged citizens, and how the UK can maintain its reputation as a centre for educational excellence post-Brexit.

A man with an international career, Jeremy holds a fervent belief that all people should aspire to have a global outlook on life – understanding and appreciating what others have to offer and what you can offer back. In a post-Brexit Britain, Jeremy feels this is particularly relevant.

The National Student caught up with man himself, to talk Brexit, arts, and the importance of retaining an international mindset.

“Brexit has highlighted some real divisions in our society and the aftermath has magnified these tenfold,” he says.

He believes that instead of “pointing fingers of blame” it is essential that we “instead be questioning the reasons why so many people felt compelled to use their vote in protest at the current system in place in the UK.”

He says: “Part of the problem is the disconnection that the public feel towards a government that is increasingly centralised and therefore unrepresentative of local interests.

“It is an incredible shame that it has got to the point that this type of structure, rather than a local one, with a global outlook, has alienated so many and in all reality it is the young people – the students’ of Bath Spa University for example – that will bear the consequences of this summer’s vote.

“In order to learn valuable positive lessons from Brexit and to make the changes necessary in the coming years, it is therefore imperative that we are training our future leaders to be empathetic, intelligent and instill a sense of being part of the human race and not just British, or English or Welsh.

“With an international mentality, our young people can look outwards and create new ways of collaborating across Europe, and the world, and hopefully fix some of the political problems of today.”

Collaboration in all things is a stance that Jeremy feels passionately about, and he agrees that it is incredibly important to turn out graduates that are well-rounded if we are to progress as a society.

“Much emphasis is put on the STEM subjects, not only in terms of education at all levels but also in terms for the economy. There seems to be a feeling that technology is going to save us all – and indeed, science and technology bring a lot to us all.

“But this can often be at the cost of the arts – a sector that has been pivotal to innovation for decades – and is often overlooked in terms of its contribution to the world.

“The number of jobs that exist and are continuously created in the arts is astounding and the contribution to the economy is growing year-on-year.

“Given this, it makes sense to bring the liberal arts and technology and sciences together – who knows what is possible if we break down the barriers between the two, which are quite artificial. There is no natural reason for the two to be mutually exclusive.”

Jeremy Irons is the new Chancellor of Bath Spa University.