Leeds-List - Leeds' ultimate magazine and guide

Gordan Benson

From Olympic athletes to race car drivers and award-winning artists, there’s some serious talent coming out of the city’s colleges and universities.

When it comes to education, we’re incredibly lucky. We’ve got three well respected universities under our belt, as well as the likes of Leeds College of Art, Leeds College of Music and Leeds College of Building, all of which have helped to bolster our reputation for nurturing young talent. So this week, we thought we’d introduce you to some of the bright young things coming out of Leeds.

Gordon Benson

Gordan Benson

You may well have heard his name. As well as studying Nutrition at the University of Leeds, Gordon Benson has been training to compete in the Triathlon at the European Games in Baku – he walked away with the gold medal. Now, he stands a good chance of supporting the Brownlee Brothers, who as it happens are his training buddies here in Yorkshire, at the Rio Olympics later this year.

It’s not something Benson could have done just anywhere. Leeds is uniquely equipped to nurture the talents of young triathlon athletes. It’s home to the Leeds Triathlon Centre, one of the best triathlon programmes in the world, and both the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University are a part of that. It’s not just facilities either, Benson has had extra support, helping him to balance his studies and his training, as well as a Sport Scholarship funded by Leeds University alumnus Patrick Way QC. That, and a lot of hard work on his part, has got him where he is today.

Joe Edge

Joe Edge

As an urban artist, you might well expect Joe Edge to be studying some kind of art course, but actually, he’s working his way towards a Digital and Social Media degree at Leeds Trinity University. It’s helped him to position and market his own business, EdgyArts, which he’s running alongside his studies.

His hand-drawn and stencil artwork has proved extremely popular, even the University have bought into it by commissioning him to produce 12 pieces of art for the student bar. They were so popular that Joe was asked to produce posters of his artwork to sell at the Freshers’ Fair, and with the help of the Enterprise Centre, he’s been able to get the word out to secure even more commissions. So far, he’s sold 1,300 posters, completed 50 pieces of original art and won The Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Award. Not bad work, considering he’s only 21.

Max Coates

Max Coates

Imagine juggling your studies with a high adrenaline hobby that’s a career in itself. That’s what Leeds Beckett student, Max Coates is doing. On the one hand, he’s studying Sports Marketing at the Leeds University with a first class average in his first year, but on the other, he’s a professional race car driver.

In 2015, he bagged a top 20 place in his first outing in the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship for Paras Racing, and he’s now joined the Ciceley Motorsports team, competing for their first season in the Renault UK Clio Cup. In his debut weekend for the team, he finished in the top 8, taking graduate class honours in both races – and he’s currently sitting in 5th place in the Championship standings.

Kimberley Burrows

Kimberley Burrows

This is a truly inspirational story. You see, Kimberley Burrows is currently studying for an Access to Higher Education Diploma that will lead to a BA in Illustration at Leeds College of Art, despite the fact that’s she’s almost completely blind. Her story is a complicated one – she was born two months premature with both sight and hearing problems that required countless operations as she was growing up.

But she didn’t let it stop her. She now has limited sight in one eye, and it’s allowed her to pursue her dream to become a children’s book illustrator. The intricacy and detail of her work is incredible, especially when you consider that she can only work on her illustrations for 20 minutes at a time, so as not to place too much strain on her eye. It may be hard work, but it’s certainly paying off as she was named Young Illustrator of the Year by Insight Magazine in 2014.

Yona Knight-Wisdom

Yona Knight-Wisdom

It’s not just triathlon athletes that excel in Leeds – and Yona Knight-Wisdom is the proof. He’s set to become the first ever Jamaican Olympic diver at this year’s Games in Rio de Janeiro – and he’s currently studying for a BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science at Leeds Beckett University.

Yona has a sports scholarship at Leeds Beckett and is in his final year of university. Alongside his studies, he’s part of the City of Leeds Diving Club, which is one of the most successful in the country, taking four of the ten places in this year’s Olympic GB team, as well as Yona’s place in the Jamaican team. He trains at John Charles Centre for Sport with head coach, Adam Smallwood.

Yona image copyright Chris Midgley. Cover and Gordan Benson images copyright Adam Robinson Photography.