Esperance woman becomes a UK art director

A school photo of the Spencer sisters Elizabeth, Ashleigh and Courtney (centre).
A school photo of the Spencer sisters Elizabeth, Ashleigh and Courtney (centre).

Where are they now?

Courtney Spencer

I’ve been living in England since 2003 and in Leeds for the last 12 years (it’s the place I have lived the longest in all my life). I was born in Sydney in 1980 and we moved quite a bit with my Dad’s job with the Bureau of Meteorology; we lived in Adelaide, Perth, Meekatharra, Cocos Island and Forrest before we moved to Esperance in 1992 and where my parents, Cliff and Janice still live.

My younger sisters, Elizabeth and Ashleigh and I had a brilliant time when we moved to Esperance and loved exploring the beaches. It was only as I got older that I realised how amazing these beaches are and very few in the world would ever compare.

I have lots of great memories of my school days in Esperance and thanks to Facebook I’m still in touch with many school friends. My favourite memory is the summer I graduated from high school. It felt like we had all found a new sense of freedom and it was an exciting time before we all went our separate ways. 

Baz Luhrmann’s Song “Everyone’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)” felt particularly poignant as it addressed the class of 1997 with words of wisdom. If I ever hear that song or Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping I’m transported back to that summer spent driving to beaches, driving to parties and driving just to be driving...we were 17 so driving was still a novelty and a way of getting out, even if we had no place to go!

Esperance was a wonderful place to grow up, it may have been the location or that we were still on painfully slow dial-up internet but it felt like a safe, isolated little bubble. I had a great education that instilled a sense of curiosity in the world around me. 

I come from a creative family and as long as I can remember I have always been interested in art. Following school I studied Art and Design at Curtin University for four years and then returned to Esperance for 18 months where I worked as a Graphic Designer at the Esperance Express and then moved to a sales role at Radio 747.

I then moved to the UK to go travelling. 

As I farewelled my parents at the Esperance airport, loaded with my oversized backpack, I said I might be back in five months or five years. Initially, I travelled until I ran out of money and then slept on a friend’s floor in London and took short-term jobs so I could continue travelling.

Courtney Spencer is now an art director for a gallery in Leeds.

Courtney Spencer is now an art director for a gallery in Leeds.

My best friend from uni moved to Leeds so I visited her one weekend, loved it and decided to move. Leeds is vibrant city with loads going on but still feels very English with beautiful architecture, leafy tree-lined streets, parks and countryside. In Leeds I worked in marketing for a university and did an MA before pursing my passion for the arts. I’m now the Director of Left Bank Leeds, a multidisciplinary arts venue set in an amazing heritage listed former church building.

I oversee the marketing, fundraising, volunteering, strategic development and arts programming. It’s hard work but I love it, and there’s a real sense of achievement seeing the organisation develop.

With modern technology I get to talk to my family in Australia all the time and see my niece, Elsie, growing up. It’s nice being able to see their world and share mine. I love my life here with my wife, Vicky, our lovely little dog Oscar and our friends and family.

We recently bought a new house and it’s a really lovely blend of both English and Australian styles so I feel like I’ve brought a bit of Australia to Headingley. I’m not sure if I’ll ever move back to Australia but I like to know it’s an option. In December it will be 20 years since I graduated from high school.