My Life in the Arts

Photo of David Cross at a lecture with a variety of sculptures

David Cross ( PhD, 2002, MA English and Creative Writing, 1983, Cartmel) came to Lancaster in 1982 to study in the English Department and this enabled him to make the huge change from the sciences to the arts. Here he talks about his life after Lancaster:

"In 1982, as an English teacher in Norfolk seeking promotion, I aspired to upgrade my qualifications, so I applied for the research MA in Shakespeare Studies in the English Department at Lancaster. At the interview, we discussed the iconography of Agnolo Bronzino’s allegory Venus and Cupid (National Gallery) which led both to my acceptance on the course and my first encounter with the remarkable Dr Richard Wilson, later a professor at Lancaster, Cardiff and Kingston. As my tutor, he led me to the initial discovery that I actually had a brain and then encouraged me to reach a higher intellectual level. Richard had the brilliant ability to suggest esoteric texts which proved most useful. My eventual thesis was entitled 'The Principal Elements of the Masque in The Tempest by William Shakespeare'. Another Lancaster influence was Dr Meg Twycross, whose fascinating course in medieval literature I attended. Later she directed me as Joseph in 'The Presentation in the Temple' and Noah in 'Mr and Mrs Noah', presented variously at Lancaster, Salford, Chester and York.

The MA led to my appointment as Head of Drama at Worksop College, Nottinghamshire, where I refurbished the theatre and directed productions of Shakespeare. Further stimulus came in the early 1990s when I was working on George Romney and joined Lancaster’s Ruskin Programme. During this period I sustained myself by lecturing in art history, all over Britain, for NADFAS (now the Arts Society), occasionally to undergraduates and by tutoring for the Open College of the Arts. Having published 'A Striking Likeness: the Life of George Romney' (2000), I was awarded my PhD (by publication) at Lancaster. My enthusiasm for this artist resulted in my joining the newly-formed Romney Society and briefly editing their annual journal. I was also part of the project which led to the Romney monument in Kendal; a second monument is now planned for Dalton-in-Furness, his birthplace.

The Romney research was succeeded by a visiting fellowship at University College, Durham, where I catalogued the paintings hanging in the Castle. During the following year, I delivered a hectic spate of art lectures and was appointed to a second fellowship, at Collingwood College, to catalogue drawings by Joseph Bouet, eventually publishing 'Joseph Bouet’s Durham' (2005). Subsequently, with private presses, I edited two volumes of the letters of Percy Kelly: 'Cumbrian Brothers' (2007) and 'Dear Mary, Love Percy' (2011). Two publications were awarded a Lakeland Book of the Year prize. Other bonuses were lectures in Europe and on cruises in the Mediterranean and Baltic.

Next, I was invited to research and write Public Sculpture of Lancashire and Cumbria (2017). Then, during the pandemic, I created a website for Cumbrian Lives, a biographical project initiated in 1998 ( After thirty years of working in tandem upon the artists of Cumbria, my final book may be a selection of discoveries entitled Beyond the Canon. I am enormously grateful for my time at Lancaster, the trigger of much of this activity."

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