Two graduates from Leeds Beckett University’s Leeds School of Arts have expressed their pride after winning two accolades at this year’s Youth Music Awards.
Jessie Pigott (Jessie Marcella) pictured right and Kiera Bickerstaff (Ava in the Dark) pictured left have won the Music Producer Award and the Original Track Award respectively at the Youth Music Awards 2022. Jessie graduated in 2019 from the BA (Hons) Music Production course, and Kiera graduated in 2018 from the BA (Hons) Music Production and Performance course at Leeds School of Arts.
On winning the award, Jessie said: “I feel really proud to be able to represent female producers, that’s special to me, so to be recognised in that way is amazing. I am constantly grafting away behind the scenes to get to where I want to be. I’m very happy that the hard work is paying off.”
Kiera said: “I was excited to hear about our prize, especially as I didn’t expect to win! Youth Music put on a fantastic night, with lots of talented nominees. I was nominated by Whiskas, and I’d like to thank him for the opportunity.”
Sam Nicholls, or Whiskas as he is mainly known in the music industry, is a Senior Lecturer at Leeds School of Arts, and has supported both Jessie and Kiera in starting their music careers. Following their success at the Youth Music Awards, he said: “It’s been amazing to see how Kiera & Jessie have built their music careers since graduating, playing awesome shows, achieving some amazing national radio airplay, and capped off with this recognition at the Youth Music Awards.”
“The fact they have been noticed and have taken advantage of opportunities available to them, through music development organisations like Launchpad & BBC Introducing, shows us how much potential there is for them to succeed.”
Reflecting on her success with her band, Ava in the Dark, Kiera Bickerstaff said: “I worked for Launchpad with Whiskas, as an artist manager assistant. Launchpad supports the music sector in Yorkshire, providing and signposting to advice, funding and opportunities for artists, music businesses and industry professionals. And now I work for Universal Music London!”
“There was so much support at Leeds Beckett University, they did more for me than I could ever imagine. Whiskas has helped kickstart my music career. I don’t think I would have got my current job working for Universal Music London if it weren’t for my time working for Launchpad.”
Jessie Marcella has also worked closely with Sam Nicholls (Whiskas) at the start of her career and has praised his support: “I received invaluable support from all of my lecturers and learnt so much from them. My tutor in my final year at Leeds Beckett was Whiskas and he really understood my music from the beginning. I later released music on his label Analog Horizons and still work with him very closely now. The relationships you build at university are so important.”
Jessie and Kiera’s success at the Youth Music Awards further strengthens Leeds School of Arts’ contribution to the arts and culture scene in Leeds. Leeds Beckett University is a Principal Education Partner of Leeds 2023, embarking on a year-long celebration of culture that will continue to showcase the amazing work of its students, academics, and graduate communities in Leeds and the wider region.