WHETHER it was playing guitar and singing for 90s band Kenickie, managing some of the music industry’s biggest names or heading up a communications team across the north of England for the Arts Council – Marie Nixon’s career has always been drawn to creativity.
Now she hopes to use her wealth of creative experiences to inspire others in her new role as the University of Sunderland Chief Executive Officer of the Students’ Union (SU).
As the new term begins on campus, Marie will soon play a key part in leading the Union with the SU executive committee, made up of students from across the university, helping to make their stay in Sunderland a happy and memorable one.
She’ll bring with her a wealth of industry knowledge, having recently worked across the north of England at the Arts Council, advocating support for culture to Government, stakeholders and the public. This follows a career in the commercial music industry where she found her passion for working with artists such as the Manic Street Preachers and Groove Armada. She is currently a Fellow of the Clore Leadership Programme, the creative sector’s most prestigious development initiative, which is designed to produce exceptional leaders.
Marie said: “I’m thrilled to be joining the Students’ Union. The University is such an important part of the city and the students are its beating heart. I can’t wait to work with the Executive Committee, the University and other partners to develop the Union into an even more vital resource for the students and the city.”
But for Marie, the journey to cultivate a creative career all started in Sunderland, growing up in Castletown, where her family still live, and attending St Anthony’s Girls’ School, where she met Kenickie bandmates Lauren Laverne (nee Gofton) and Emmy Kate Montrose, now Dr Emma Jackson of Glasgow University.
Alongside Pete Goften, a former founding member of Frankie and the Heartstrings, the group’s music featured on John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show and the teenagers later secured a record contract and found themselves gracing music magazine covers.
When Kenickie split up in the late 1990s, Marie decided to go behind the scenes of the music industry into artist management. But after nine years in London, Marie decided to return to her native North East in 2005.
She said: “I was really keen to return to the North East. It’s an incredible place. It’s my home and my family are all here.
“When I came back it was such an exciting time, with so many opportunities in the region. The Angel of the North was new, BALTIC was happening and The Sage Gateshead. You could really visibly see the place change. I thought ‘this is something I really want to be part of’.”
Now she has turned her attention to university life.
Marie said: “I want to make sure that the Students’ Union is the most useful organisation it can be, offering services which help our members punch above their weight both during and after their time at university. Many students are facing a challenging time with issues like increased tuition fees and difficulty getting the jobs they’ve worked so hard for after graduation causing concern. I want us to do everything we can to contribute to our students’ bright future.”
As well as the new day job, Marie also ensures she keeps an outlet for her passion for music as a member of The Cornshed Sisters, whose album Tell Tales was released in April. Their album was recorded at the Sunderland studio of Peter Brewis of Mercury Music Prize nominees Field Music.
Marie takes over the role from Sue Masters who, after four years as Chief Executive and more than 22 years with the union playing a major role in its development, decided to take early retirement this year.
SU President Michael Egan said: “Marie’s experience in the entertainment industry will potentially be a great asset in raising the profile of the Students’ Union and allow us to continue expanding and providing a great service for all students.
“With the rejoining of NUS, our new charity status, the challenges entailed in tuition fees, and other ongoing issues, Marie has a fantastic opportunity to really make her mark and help make the University of Sunderland Students’ Union be the best it can be.”
Arts Council Regional Director Alison Clark-Jenkins said: “I’m very pleased that Marie has been appointed to this key role. The student population contributes to Sunderland’s vibrancy as a city as well as its future growth, and Marie’s commitment to Sunderland and to the arts brings with it huge potential for the city as well as students and their university.”
Sue Hoyle, Director of the Clore Leadership Programme, added: “Marie is an exceptional leader. Her outstanding communication skills, passion for the North East and ability to motivate and inspire others will stand her in good stead as she takes on this exciting new role. “