Cutting Edge Creativity from Adult Learner

19 May, 2021 4:45 pm

Douglas Thompson was just three years old when he learned his first magic trick: how to create snowflakes.

That early introduction to the craft of paper cutting – courtesy of a lesson from his aunt when she was trying to keep him occupied – set him on a lifelong exploration of art and creativity.

The 45 year old now uses his creativity every day in his job as a facilitator, mentor and instructor at Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre, Knaresborough.

And Douglas, who specialises in paper cutting and curating, is currently experiencing a fresh creative boost thanks to his studies for an MA in Creative Practice at Harrogate College.

The course has already inspired him to design a new map for Henshaws and to:

  • Set up a website,, with two of his fellow MA students
  • Organise a group art show at Henshaws this summer
  • Sell his work through Northernlines Art, at Knaresborough railway station
  • Take on a number of commissions in support of Harrogate Theatre


“I love leading workshops at Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre where I use my expertise in both drama and fine art to increase confidence, communication skills and coordination.

“Studying an MA in Creative Practice at Harrogate College has been instrumental in increasing the arts centre’s portfolio and it has encouraged our other workshop leaders to consider second degrees and further study.

“I have loved this MA and it has made so much sense for me for it to have been embedded in this community. Knaresborough and Harrogate are very creative towns; I feel far more connected now professionally to the local creative network and fully able to talk about my work and its value to the local community.”


“My earliest memory was cutting snowflakes with my aunt when I was three. It was the only way she could get me to sit still.

“My paper-cut art took off in 2011 when I used the technique to design installations for musician Omar Soulyman and for a local gallery in Bradford. I had forgotten how much I had loved working with paper as a child and from that point on it became one of my primary modes of creative expression. 

“I was a daydreamer as a child and art connected my dreams to the world and people around me. Art stopped me, in my youth, from dropping out of the education system. It has provided a way for me to make a living and given me a life with meaning that provides a lot of satisfaction.”

Fawn Forlorn by Douglas Thompson
Fawn Forlorn by Douglas Thompson


“The lack of access to practical facilities at the college during lockdown was particularly challenging but we were supported through tutorials. Our academic staff were able to act quickly in setting up online sessions.

“The college have also acknowledged the studio time that has been lost and provided extensions, with extended access to facilities. I think larger institutions may not have been able to accommodate our various needs as quickly.

“In response to social distancing, I and two other MA students created our own website,, to provide a platform to share and sell our artwork on as well as the work of other artists in our network.

“This has allowed us to collaborate with artists across the country and help us to develop creatively during a challenging time. A masters encourages this type of independent entrepreneurship backed with academic rigour.”


“I’m producing a group show from July 8 – July 12, hosted at Henshaws; I have my work on sale at Northernlines Art on Knaresborough station platform; I am managing a makers market with my colleagues from in September; and I have a number of commissions supporting Harrogate Theatre and its projects this year.

“None of this would be taking place without the MA.”


Leeds City College is participating in the Festival of Learning, a year-long recognition of mature students and their achievements, to celebrate adult learning.

Douglas, whose first degree was a BA in theatre which he did more than 20 years ago, would definitely encourage others to take up education at whatever stage of life they are at.

“I rate my learning experience very highly. It was important to me to be able to study locally in a way that was relevant and connected to my community.

“Study is as much about how you relate to the subject as it is about the institution so don’t think you have to study at the most renowned academy to get the most out of your chosen course.

“It’s never too late or too early to study either. We are always learning, that’s what keeps us bright and vital and human

“It doesn’t matter what age you are, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t studied for years, it doesn’t matter if you’ve failed in the past. What matters is that you are interested, that you enjoy the subject and that it has meaning to you.”

Discover more about our adult offering here.