Geoff Thompson, chair of the board of governors at UEL, invited Lord Grade to speak at UEL. He noted that Lord Grade, who has achieved huge success, comes from humble beginnings in east London.
Mr Thompson said, “It’s significant that we have Michael Grade here with us today in terms of culture and change in the University. I feel that this is a special occasion for us and sets the tone for what is to come.”
“I’m hoping there will be more visits to UEL like the one with Lord Grade. We want to bring people in who can engage motivate and inspire all of this student talent potential, which I believe is untapped and unrealised.”
Lord Grade was chairman of the BBC from 2004 to 2006 and executive chairman of ITV plc from 2007 to 2009. Since 2011, he has been a Conservative Party life peer in the House of Lords. He is a champion of cultural inclusion and widening participation through the arts.
Lord Grade spoke about his grandparents, who grew up in the Ukraine and then made the difficult journey to the U.K. in 1910. He described them as a tight-knit Jewish family who lived in east London and worked in the entertainment business.
He said he did not go to university. Instead, he went straight into employment as a sports journalist for the Daily Mirror newspaper.
Lord Grade also shared career tips with his audience.
He said, “Any boss is happy to hear criticism, as long as you can explain why you think what you do.”
He added, “Be who you are and be honest about who you are. That’s what an employer is looking for.”
He noted that, when looking for people to hire, “I’m most impressed by people who are thoughtful about the company that they have applied to work at.”
He said the latter shows employers that the potential employee is engaged and informed. Employers are looking for someone authentic – the key is to explain why you have an opinion.
As the session progressed there were various questions from the audience about moral responsibility, political stress, and how to get into the media industry.
Lord Grade said that there is always a line that you cannot cross, that work must be original and to keep writing until your idea is no longer rejected by the big firms and agents.
He said, “It’s always good for students to meet people who’ve been there and done it – people like me who’ve been there a long time. It’s important for students to have curiosity, and to try and understand what the people who have come before them have faced. Then it’s up to them what wisdom they choose to pick up and follow up with.”
Ivan Alejandro Acosta, a third year student studying film, said, “He’s helped the University open up new conversations. I loved his story-telling techniques. It’s like there was nothing to knock his wave.”
Insia Durrani, a first year student also studying film, was inspired by personal advice Lord Grade gave her after the session.
She said, “I asked Lord Grade about screen writing and he told me that I should build my own signature style, that it should be something that develops over time. It’s made me feel really motivated to keep working towards my dream.”
Insia added, “The session was very educating. As a creative art student it was good because it has helped me break down a pathway to my career. It helps to compare his story with mine.”