Cause UK pitched and produced a Sky Arts film, pulling together an incredible team of creatives, including the hugely talented film director and editor, Katie Greenhalf, the visionary Melvin Besbrode from Besbrode Pianos, and one of the UK’s leading composers and conductors, the irrepressible, Ben Crick.
But the real story was that of 23-year-old Ellis Arey.
When 23-year-old Ellis Arey won the 2022 Leeds Conservatoire Piano Competition sponsored by Besbrode Pianos, the owner of the UK’s largest piano store in Holbeck noticed him not just for his incredible playing.
“He had these really unique black and white jazz shoes,” Melvin Besbrode says. “And swagger.”
Like Melvin, Ellis was from a working-class background. A rarity in the rarefied world of classical piano. The pair hit it off.
A partnership of organisations including Studio 12, Leeds Libraries and digital agency, The Space, announced an opportunity for artists as part of Leeds 2023: Year of Culture – to pitch ideas for a short film in response to the question: What’s worth fighting for? Those selected would have their films featured on Sky Arts.
Ellis, supported by Melvin and Cause UK, a creative agency run Clair Challenor-Chadwick that specialises in supporting the arts, as well as curating their own cultural events, put in an application.
Not only was Ellis an incredible pianist studying at Leeds Conservatoire, he was a boxer who grew up on a council estate with a single parent.
Ellis says, “I don’t really look like a classical pianist. I certainly don’t talk like one or act like one.”
He explains, “My mum worked different jobs to make sure there was food on the table. We had to leave the oven door open to keep the kitchen warm and warm the house. I really grew up with nothing, although my mum always made us feel we had something.”