The nominations have been sifted, the judges have deliberated and shortlists for the 2022 North East Culture Awards can be announced!
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
The Teesdale photographer spent a year documenting the lives of women in agriculture in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. Her exhibition, Daughters of the Soil, was shown in Berwick where she was artist-in-residence at The Maltings, and is at Vane, Gateshead, until September 3.
After graduating from Guildford School of Acting in 2021, Beth, from Shiremoor, shone as Sally in Open Clasp Theatre Company’s screen production, Lasagna. She then played Hatty Rabbit in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice at Northern Stage and will return to the role this year.
Eleven North East disabled artists started working together last summer and have since run more than 30 in person and online workshops, organised events and exhibitions, and commissioned new work. Their own work has been showcased at conferences across Europe.
Bridget Marumo, Bethany Morris and Elena Porter
The teenage actresses made their professional stage debuts as engaging punk wannabes Klara, Bobo and Hedwig in We Are the Best! The show, directed by Jack McNamara, opened the new season at Live Theatre.
The theatre company formed by actors Lucy Curry and Carl Wylie made its successful debut this year with Whale of a Time. Co-produced with Alphabetti Theatre, the play told the story of Albert and Robbie who find themselves thrown together inside a whale.
WRITER OF THE YEAR
Best known in recent times for her Writing the Missing film trilogy (the third part coming up at Durham Book Festival in October), Lisette ventured into new territory this year with her first children’s book, The Secret of Haven Point, published in February by Penguin.
A hit at Alphabetti Theatre was Kemi-Bo’s one-woman play All White Everything But Me, in which she also performed as Althea Gibson, the first black grand slam tennis champion and relatively unsung Wimbledon singles winner in 1957 and 1958.
Her play, HERE, finally found an audience at Northern Stage after the first coronavirus lockdown postponed its premiere. Set in a library in Byker, Newcastle, the play wove together the stories of some of the people who have sought sanctuary in the region.
BEST ARTS & EDUCATION PARTNERSHIP
Cap-a-Pie & Newcastle University
In 2021 the long-time partners involved hundreds of Key Stage 2 pupils in the Climate Change Catastrophe! project. Working with a creative team and climate change scientists and engineers, the children made a film that was shown at the UN climate change conference, COP26.
Open Orchestra, Middlesbrough
The partnership between Beverley School, Priory Woods School, Musinc (the Teesside Music Inclusion Partnership), Middlesbrough Town Hall and Open Up Music enables disabled youngsters to learn to play a musical instrument through individual lessons, small group work and orchestra rehearsals.
Street Museum Blackhall
Blackhall Community Centre, Durham University and East Durham Creates collaborated for a year to give people in the former pit village access to the university’s historic collections. It culminated in an exhibition in Blackhall of 3D printed objects displayed as a ‘street museum’ in homes and other places.
VISUAL ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Claire A. Baker
With an interest in memory, displacement and the lost, Claire, who works in textiles, has engaged since 2015 with people still living in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Many are elderly women, ‘babushkas’. Her exhibition at MIMA, The Red Thread, was based on her research.
Combining archival research with art and theatre, her creations have graced many heritage properties casting their stories in a new light. Imogen’s work can currently be seen at Seaton Delaval Hall where she was commissioned by the National Trust to create a series of installations for their The Curtain Rises project.
Best known for her papercut artworks, the Newcastle-based artist dedicated much of her energy over 12 months to A Northumberland Menagerie which features exhibitions in Berwick, Morpeth, Hexham and at Woodhorn, Ashington, telling stories of animals in the county.
SPECIAL AWARD FOR YOUNG ACHIEVEMENT
Sunderland Culture’s young ambassadors, aged 13 to 25, curated Where There’s Space to Grow, an exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens featuring newly commissioned artworks and items from the Arts Council Collection chosen to fit themes they wanted to explore.
Develop Your Voice - New Writing North, Young Writers' City at Excelsior Academy
New Writing North’s Young Writers’ City project has been running for eight years at the Newcastle school with notable success. Develop Your Voice enabled young people to choose themes to focus on which led to them running a Wellbeing Week for fellow students.
Set up by Helix Arts, young people from the Phoenix Detached Youth Project and YMCA North Tyneside worked with Rape Crisis North Tyneside and Northumberland to explore issues around sexual relationships and domestic violence. With artist Liv Hunt and others, they attended drama workshops and made a film.
BEST EVENT OR EXHIBITION
MIMA - Chemical City
The focus of the exhibition was on plastics manufacturing on Teesside but it embraced broader social, economic and ecological themes. Featuring art by Annie O’Donnell, Onya McCausland and Katarina Zdjelar, it sparked memories, told stories and stimulated the imagination while inspiring a podcast series, An Artist and a Planet.
International artists Ryan Gander, Katie Paterson, Monster Chetwynd and Pascale Marthine Tayou gained the chance to explore the potential of glass with experts at National Glass Centre. Their creations were displayed at the NGC, Sunderland Minster, Durham Cathedral and Sunderland city centre.
One Winter's Night - Dene Valley & Eldon Festive Light Parade 2021, Northern Heartlands
Northern Heartlands, based in Barnard Castle, has been active for three years in these challenged communities and worked with locals to revive this old Christmas custom. People rallied round and attended lantern-making workshops before the hugely successful event on December 21.
PERFORMING ARTIST OF THE YEAR
As Kema Kay, he reopened Live Theatre in September with an updated version of Shine, the autobiographical show which began as a short piece at Live’s Elevator Festival of new talent and became a full-blown production. In words and music, it recalled Kema’s challenging Tyneside upbringing after arriving as a child from Zambia.
Uncaged Aerial Theatre
The circus company, founded in 2019 by Emma Bloomfield, Sarah Dobbs and Rosie Vleugels, uses aerial arts in storytelling. In lockdown they devised Letters of Hope, asking people to send such letters and responding to them with movement and aerial work. Girls, Girls, Girls, which celebrates difference, premiered at Washington Arts Centre in May.
The North East actress recently delivered two notable solo performances. In Ed Waugh’s Wor Bella, recalling the ‘Munitionettes’ who played football during World War One, she played Bella Reay. Then at Alphabetti she impressed audiences in No. 9, Anna Robinson’s debut play about the aftermath of a sexual assault.
BEST MUSEUM or CULTURAL VENUE
The Newcastle theatre founded by Ali Pritchard and built on a wing and a prayer has established itself as an integral part of the region’s cultural infrastructure. It supports emerging artists, builds new audiences through its ‘pay as you feel’ policy and has presented a string of moving and thought-provoking new shows.
Beamish: The Living Museum of the North
Founded in 1970 by Frank Atkinson when the 1950s were the recent past, the popular visitor attraction continues to evolve. Having successful bounced back after the pandemic, it has proceeded apace with its 1950 Town development. Six new attractions have opened this year as part of its Remaking Beamish project.
The Fire Station, Sunderland
Run by Sunderland Culture, the new Fire Station Auditorium opened in December, adding a versatile, mid-scale performance space to the city’s portfolio of cultural venues. The Fire Station complex, also incorporating studios, rehearsal space, teaching rooms and the Engine Room bar and bistro, is at the heart of the city Cultural Quarter.
BEST INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION
Access and Aesthetics, Headway Arts
Blyth-based Headway Arts, founded in 1995, makes work with people who might not otherwise have access to the arts. It set up Access and Aesthetics, a project to support learning disabled performers, with partners in Finland, Portugal and Sweden. A concluding performance, Our Hearts are more Alike than Different, premiered in Blyth in July with participants from all four countries.
The White Card by Claudia Rankine, directed by Natalie Ibu & produced by Northern Stage
The theatre company boasts of forging connections, creating exchanges and building partnerships in a complex world. In staging the European premiere of the debut play by an important international writer, born in Jamaica but resident in New York, it justified that boast. Natalie Ibu’s acclaimed production of the play about racism and white privilege sparked necessary debate.
BEST ARTS & BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP
New Writing North and Hachette UK
One of the UK’s biggest publishers (imprints include John Murray and Orion) has expanded out of London and New Writing North lobbied for the company, with which it has worked closely through its Northern Writers’ Awards, to make Newcastle a regional centre. An immediate outcome is a new MA in Publishing offered by Northumbria University.
Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and Nexus
The pair joined forces to help make school holiday activities affordable for families across the Metro system. Ways to Play is a programme of free TWAM activities sponsored by Nexus and coinciding with its Take the Kids for Free initiative which launched last summer on the Metro. Museum admissions and passenger numbers have risen accordingly.
Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust and PopRecs
The Trust restores old buildings, working in partnership with local authorities. Sunderland City Council wanted 170-175 High Street West brought back into use and the city’s much-loved café and music venue, PopRecs, needed a new home. Through harmonious working, the aims of all have been realised.
PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
Firm As A Rock We Stand - by Durham BRASS Festival, Durham Miners' Association & Redhills CIO
A festival highlight, a co-commission with Durham Miners’ Association and Redhills CIO, was the “haunting” and “extraordinary” performance in Durham Cathedral by LYR (poet laureate Simon Armitage, singer-songwriter Richard Walters and multi-instrumentalist/producer Patrick Pearson) and the Easington Colliery Band. Through words and music, they recalled the struggle of County Durham’s condemned ‘Category D’ villages.
HERE - by Lindsay Rodden, A Curious Monkey, Northern Stage & Newcastle University co production
Four strangers from far-flung places – Albania, Angola, Glasgow and Kurdistan – meet in a Byker library and friendships form. Lindsay Rodden’s play, by the region’s first Theatre Company of Sanctuary, moved audiences and was the fitting climax of a long collaboration with Curious Monkey’s ‘Arriving’ group of sanctuary seekers.
North of the Tyne, Under the Stars - by Pinwheel and DAT Events, commissioned by the North of Tyne Combined Authority
The ambitious celebration of the area’s cultural heritage began with events in parks presided over by the mythical Story-Weaver. The finale was a series of spectacular projections seen by 40,000 people in Newcastle city centre over four nights in March. It was produced by Pinwheel and DATevents for the North of Tyne Combined Authority.