New portrait made of names to celebrate Lord Attenborough’s 90th birthday

Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, Michael Douglas and the broadcaster Channel 4 are among the people and organisations who have pledged their support for the new Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, which is being developed at the University of Sussex.

3-12-2012 — / — Their names will appear in a specially commissioned oil portrait of Lord Attenborough, which is due to be presented to the celebrated actor and director – and former Chancellor of the University –  on his 90th birthday in September 2013.

The work is being created by Brighton artist Mike Edwards, a pioneer of typographical art who has created similar-style portraits of Burmese Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and iconic pop artists Blondie and  David Bowie. The paintings are composed of clearly readable text that, when viewed from a distance, merges to create an image with a photographic-like quality.

Around 200 names are required to complete the portrait. The University is now also giving others the opportunity to make a donation in order to be included in the work, which will go on display in the Attenborough Centre.

Formerly the Gardner Arts Centre, in 2009 the iconic  Basil Spence-designed building was renamed after Lord Attenborough in 2009 and is currently undergoing a £7.2 million refurbishment. It is expected to reopen during 2014.

Throughout Lord Attenborough’s long association with Sussex, he has been particularly interested in the welfare of the Gardner building. In its renaming, he set out his vision for its future: “The Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts will provide an arena in which professional artists, the academic community and audiences can cross-fertilise, offering up the thrilling possibility of a uniquely rich and original range of events of the highest quality.

“I have no doubt that the centre will contribute hugely to the University’s future success and make a significant contribution to performing arts education and practice for generations to come.”

Lord Attenborough’s son, theatre director Michael Attenborough, says:  “This portrait is not only a wonderful tribute to my father, it will also make a stunning centrepiece for the building.”

  • Anyone interested in making a donation to the Attenborough Centre and having their name included in the portrait should contact the University of Sussex’s Development and Alumni Relations Office, +44 (0)1273 678258 or

Notes for editor


Prototype of the portrait of Lord Attenborough being painted by Brighton artist Mike Edwards

Prototype of the portrait of Lord Attenborough being painted by Brighton artist Mike Edwards


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