For Poppy Cookson, 2019 is a year she’ll never forget.
The 22-year-old became the first in her family to graduate from university.
She joined 230 fellow graduands in having degrees and other academic awards conferred upon them at Carlisle Cathedral on the last day of University of Cumbria graduation celebrations taking place this week.
Poppy has also been successful in two key university schemes that reward her work as an emerging artist.
She won a significant travel grant from the university and the Hadfield Trust which allowed her to visit Italy to explore this year’s Venice Biennale, one of the world’s largest international contemporary arts festivals.
And, after being accepted to join the university’s MA Fine Art programme, Poppy received an invitation to take up a year-long graduate residency.
She said: “It has been a really good year and it has given me a real confidence boost. One of the highlights has been taking part in the summer degree show that takes place every year for the university’s final-year arts students. I’ve had the opportunity to try out ideas.”
Growing up in Bootle and the Duddon Valley, one of the most beautiful parts of rural Cumbria, Poppy’s love of the arts was developed at Millom School in the west of the county. She progressed to do A-levels and a foundation course at Barrow Sixth Form, where she has since returned to visit and inspire further education students.
Poppy said: “I’ve always wanted to be an artist and I’ve always been creative be it painting, singing, drama. I even did an extra GCSE in art photography when I was at school when I’d already chosen to do exams in art, music and drama.
“It was when I was at college and I failed law that I picked up art A-level in my second year and my thoughts turned towards perhaps doing art at university. I stayed on a third year to do an arts foundation course before applying for university. I received three offers and after visiting I chose Cumbria because I love the facilities, the art spaces and studios, and the small class sizes. I knew we’d know our tutors and they’d know us.”
Inspired by the Lake District landscape growing up, Poppy has begun her graduate residency at University of Cumbria’s Institute of the Arts, Brampton Road, Carlisle.
She said: “It provides me with the opportunity to take a step back from education and create work and pieces on campus. I’ve always enjoyed being quite broad and experimental using a variety of techniques but mostly my work focuses on human and non-human relationships such as those with animals and the landscape.
“I’ve got a commission with Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal and I want to focus on progressing as an artist, perhaps doing some curacy too.”
Poppy hopes her university success inspires her younger siblings.
She said: “I’m the first in my family to graduate, I know that’s quite something. One of my sisters is at college now. I hope seeing me inspires her in the same way I’ve been.”