Leeds Legends

Posted 4 days ago

Take a look at some familiar faces that studied at Leeds

From successful entrepreneurs to award-winning artists and even our new Prime Minister, the university has been the home to some amazing individuals, but you may be surprised by how many familiar faces you recognise from our esteemed alumni. Take a look at some of the legends that have studied here at Leeds!  

On Friday 5 July 2024, Keir Starmer led the Labour party to a massive general election win, making him the first University of Leeds graduate to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He studied Law at the University of Leeds and reportedly lived in the original Charles Morris Hall residence (before its refurbishment in 2009) as a fresher before graduating in 1985. When speaking to Leeds Magazine in 2023, Starmer said “I absolutely fell in love with Leeds, and I’ve been in love with it ever since. It absolutely formed me, and changed my life.” 

Chris Pine is perhaps the most A-list name on this list, having appeared in loads of Hollywood blockbusters including the Star Trek reboot series, Wonder Woman, and Don’t Worry Darling to name a few. He studied English at the University of Leeds in 2003 as part of a study abroad program, lived in Hyde Park and recently admitted on Capital Radio to taking part in an Otley Run! 

Another famous actor Emma Mackey, who is known for her work in Sex Education and the Barbie movie, studied here, graduating in English Language and Literature in 2016. Emma has won several awards for her acting work, including a British Academy Television Award for Sex Education and a British Film Academy Award for her leading role in Emily.  

Jenny Ryan, better known to some as "The Vixen," is a Chaser on ITV’s The Chase studied Law at Leeds, graduating in 2005. Her sharp wit and encyclopaedic memory made her a firm favourite on the show, but she’s always had her quizzing skills. She was on Leeds’ University Challenge team in 2006 and took the team all the way to the semi-finals.  

Alistair Brownlee MBE and Jonny Brownlee MBE are triathlon legends, winning numerous medals at the Olympic Games and World Triathlon Championships over their careers. Alistair studied Sports Science and Physiology, while his younger brother Jonny studied History.  

Lead vocalist of the British band Bastille, Dan Smith, is another notable alumnus of the University of Leeds. He studied English, graduating in 2007, and was a writer for the University newspaper on film and music columns.  

Joe Newman, Thom Green, and Gus Unger-Hamilton make up the indie band alt-J. The band have a distinct sound and innovative perspective on music, which actually originated from living in halls! They recorded their first tracks in residences and couldn’t be too loud that they disturbed other residents, so had to avoid using drums or bass in their process.  

Acclaimed author and online advocate for mental health, Matt Haig, studied his Masters in English here back in 1998. Matt has had several best-selling novels, including "How to Stop Time,” but has also turned his craft to opening up about his own struggles with mental health, giving comfort and advice to others in his book “Reasons to Stay Alive”.  

Jamie Laing, is probably best known for his appearances on the reality show "Made in Chelsea," but has also had major successes with his vegan sweets brand Candy Kittens. He studied Theatre and Performance here, graduating in 2011.  

Alice Levine is a presenter and comedian who has done a wide range of work in television, and is well known as a collaborator on the hit podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno. During her time at Leeds, Alice studied English and played an active part in Leeds Student Television, winning a National Student Television Award for her work.  

You may think the word Chumbawamba means nothing to you, but we guarantee you’ve heard the catchy chorus of “I get knocked down, but I get up again” at some point during your time in Leeds. Jude Abbott, Boff Whalley, and Nigel Hunter are former members of the band Chumbawambaand the group studied here in the 80’s before their chart success.