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Calligrapher leaves a lasting mark on Sunderland

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Published on 03 January 2021

Manny Ling
Manny Ling

University Programme Leader for MA Design Manny Ling will be leaving his academic post after Christmas for pastures new in Vietnam. 

After 22 years at the University, setting up the region’s International Research Centre for Calligraphy (IRCC)hosting numerous exhibitions, curating and seeing hundreds of his students graduate, Manny will take up new post with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, based in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. 

It’s a decision he admits is bittersweet; “I have really enjoyed my time at Sunderland and have some incredible memories, but an opportunity has arisen and I felt the time was right to take up the next challenge in life,” he says.  

I have really enjoyed my time at Sunderland, the people here are so nice, supportive and friendly. I have worked with many colleagues right across our faculties over the yearsand it’s been incredibly rewarding. I have seen so many students graduate over the years and Ive been lucky enough to keep in touch with many of them, some now have their own families and have forged wonderful careers for themselves.” 

Professor Arabella Plouviez,  Academic Dean in the Faculty of Arts & Creative Industries, said: “Manny Ling has been a valuable member of staff and colleague for many years. He has been very influential in the growth of the design area as well as being key in the development of research within the design disciplines here at Sunderland. As leader of the MA in Design he has developed a strong and cohesive programme that brings together designers from different disciplines, working together whilst also being able to specialise and of course his interest in calligraphy has brought so much to the curriculum. It is very sad for us to see Manny go, but hopefully we will find ways to work together as he moves to this exciting new stage in his career.” 

Manny emigrated with his family to the North East from Hong Kong almost 40 years ago, living in London with his wife Sue, teaching at the London College of Printing and various other places. But with their baby daughter Emily not yet one-years-old, they decided to move closer to Sue’s family back in the North Eastwhere Manny secured a job at Sunderland as a lecturer in graphic design. 

Since that time the 54-year-old has achieved many milestones in his career, including setting up the International Research Centre for Calligraphy (IRCC) at Sunderland, which will now be taken over by the University’s Professor Ewan ClaytonIn 2015 Manny was unveiled as one of the winners for Fine Art at the prestigious China Unlimited creative contest, celebrating 40 years of EU-China relations. The competition was open to all EU citizens, of all ages and walks of life, with a passion for China, inspired by the long and rich historical ties between Europe and China, and is sponsored by the Mission of China to the EU.  

In 2013 he was voted the Most Inspirational Tutor at the University’s Student-led Teaching Awards, in 2020 he was named a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and awarded nominee for the Best Doctoral Research Supervisor. 

He launched a popular graphic design course in his native Hong Kong and was programme leader of the university’s Foundation Degree in Calligraphy with Design, run from Kensington Palace, in 2010. 

Manny believes Sunderland has now firmly established itself as an international centre for calligraphy. 

He said: “We developed the IRCC at the University and since 1999 we have been hosting regular international calligraphy conferences, attracting calligraphers and academics from across the world, coming to Sunderland for master classes, as well as lectures and seminars to discuss the serious issues surrounding the art. 

“As a result of our efforts, Sunderland is now perceived globally as the centre for calligraphy development. 

“You only have to look back at Sunderland’s history at St Peter’s and the writings of the monastic scholar Venerable Bede, who studied calligraphy as a boy, to realise how connected this area is to this art form,”  

He has forged his own successful art career out of calligraphy, combining his knowledge and interest in Eastern philosophy with Western design and typographic practice to develop a distinctive approach to the subject.  

He has been invited to speak and show his work internationally and completed a PhD in 2008 – the first practice-based Doctorate in the world to be awarded for Western calligraphy. 

He said: “Since I was 16, I have always wanted to promote calligraphy in a more formal and academic way to a broad audience. 

“I want people to see calligraphy as more than just a hobby. It’s an art form in itself and something you can study for the whole of your life. 

Manny will take officially take up his post in Vietnam in March 2021 and will be joined by his wife Sue. His two grown up children, Emily and Alex, who still live and work in the region, so will provide the opportunity for the academic to return home to visit his family in the future.