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Culture Awards Alumni: The Class of 2006

Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, Sakoba Dance, Sunderland Air Show, SIRF and The Victoria Tunnel were among the winners

The Culture Awards 2006 was the first and took place at Northern Stage in March 2007.

The audience enjoyed performances from artists including Rachel Unthank and the Winterset (who would go on to become The Unthanks) and Beccy Owen, who went on to front Sharks Took The Rest and who has recently unveiled a new project: Joy Atlas.

The evening was presented by actor Tony Neilson and the trophies were made by artist, William Pym.

Rachel Unthank and the Winterset (now known as The Unthanks)
Rachel Unthank and the Winterset (now known as The Unthanks)

Artist of the Year: Rachel Unthank and the Winterset (now known as The Unthanks)

A North East Folk band led by sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank, who released their debut album Cruel Sister in 2005.

2006 saw the band win Artist of the Year on the strength of their live performances which included shows at The Sage Gateshead and Cambridge Folk festival.

They were praised for their respect for traditional Northern folk music, whilst also bringing a modern attitude to their material by combining it with other genres but as was said at the time, never going as far as to ‘dilute folk music with pop sensibilities’.

Since winning Artist of the year in 2006, the band have continued on an upward trajectory, featuring a Mercury Music Prize and BBC Folk Awards Best Album nominations for Their 2007 album, The Bairns.

Their music has often been praised for it‘s magical or otherworldly quality. In 2009 the band shortened their name to The Unthanks and cemented their line up as Rachel and Becky, Adrian McNally and Niopha Keegan.

Over the years the band have won a number of high profile fans including Martin Freeman, Elvis Costello, Robert Wyatt, Ben Folds, Ryan Adams, Rosanne Cash, Dawn French, Paul Morley, Al Murray, Ewan McGregor and Nick Hornby, to name a few.

The band’s most recent long player, Mount the Air was released in February 2015 to widepsread praise and they celebrated with their biggest headline gig to date in the North East at Newcastle City Hall. A 10th anniversary tour has recently been announced too.

As well as their work with The Unthanks, members of the band have lent their voices and talents to a number of other projects including Songs from the Shipyards and Sting’s 2013 album The Last Ship.

Website: www.the-unthanks.com/

Twitter: @TheUnthanks

Sakoba Dance Theatre
Sakoba Dance Theatre

Performance of the Year: Sakoba Dance Theatre

In 2006 Sakoba Dance Theatre celebrated it’s 20th anniversary, so it was fitting they were also awarded the Performance of the Year award for their show Tiwa Tiwa.

Since their inception, the company have produced innovative work combining African cultural traditions with dance styles from across the world. Tiwa Tiwa saw Sakoba launch their post-modern African Dance Technique and continue the aims of the theatre company’s artistic director Bode Lawal ‘To push the Boundaries and challenge the general perception of African Dance’.

Since winning, Sakoba Dance Theatre have continued to uphold their aims of honouring the past, celebrating the present and looking to the Future, as well as taking Tiwa Tiwa on tour in 2007. Sakoba have gone on to produce a number of shows including their 2012 Heritage Lottery funded project Sensing Cesar.

As well as producing work for performance within the North East, across the country and internationally, they have also put a strong focus on education and outreach, running residencies and professional development master classes as well as collaborating with guest artists, all in the name of promoting diversity and allowing the company and the presence of innovative African Dance in the North East to grow.

Newcomer of the Year: Kathryn Wightman

An artist working with glass, Kathryn Wightman was awarded Newcomer of the year after showcasing her glassworks in order to secure a place on a national scheme aimed at fast tracking young designers to success. Her work was praised for pushing the boundaries of glassmaking.

Originally a psychology student at the University of Sunderland, her life took a different track when she dropped out of her degree and switched over to studying glassmaking, a bold decision that by 2006 had clearly paid off. Around the time of winning Kathryn said: “I wouldn’t be happy if I couldn’t make glass I love designing the glass and communicating my ideas.”

Almost 10 years later, Kathryn is now a self-employed hot glass artist based at the National Glass Centre where she produces specialist screen printed glass works for exhibitions and competitions across the country.

Website: http://www.kathrynwightmanglass.com/

Best Arts and Business Partnership

Sage Gateshead and Robert Muckle LLP (now known as Muckle LLP)

Having already been partners for five years, 2006 saw the partnership between Sage Gateshead and the North East law firm put a strong focus on creating innovative ways of benefiting both organisations.

A key point in this focus was the appointing of Robert Muckle as advisors on the venue’s Learning and Participation Programme. After winning the award in 2006, Hugh Welch - a partner at the law firm - said of the success of the relationship: “‘Partnership’ is a word that is, in my view, often misused but on this occasion it does accurately describe our relationship with the Sage. I think our two organisations work together fantastically well and there has been considerable benefit to each of us through our collaboration.”

Muckle LLP remain a silver partner and continue to work with the venue.

Websites: www.sagegateshead.com and www.muckle-llp.com

Twitter: @sage_gateshead and @MuckleLLP

Bede’s World Museum
Bede’s World Museum

North East Museum Award: Bede’s World Museum - Youth Outreach Project

The Bede’s World Youth Outreach project saw a group of young people spending a day living the life of an Anglo-Saxon warrior in what was known as Warrior Day. As well as being a fun activity for the group, the project was the Museum’s method of engaging young people who’s interest in formal education was dwindling and as a result were potentially at risk of becoming involved in anti-social behaviour.

Warrior Day gave the group the opportunity to decide how they’d like the project to be delivered, and in response the Museum’s trustees and staff had to work out how to make their decisions a reality. The project also featured an art installation at Bede‘s World. Project director Keith Merrin said that the work done on the project “helped many to take inspiration from what they have achieved back into their often difficult lives”.

Since delivering the project in 2006, Bede’s World has continued it’s outreach towards young people with projects such as Youth Groups, Duke of Edinburgh and Young Carers as well as done work to support other areas of the community such as isolated older people and it’s sheltered homes for both young and old people project.

Website: www.bedesworld.co.uk/

Twitter: @BedesWorld

Arts Council Award: Spennymoor Letters

Commissioned to help put Spennymoor on the map, the project saw North East visual poet, Ira Lightman curate a series of local poems, written by people from around Spennymoor.

Each poem was shaped like one of the letters in the word S P E N N Y M O O R and the letters were placed around the town, creating a trail that both residents and visitors could follow.

Part of the fun was that, depending on where someone started the trail, the letters might spell out words other than ‘Spennymoor’. Being nominated for the Arts Council Award meant a lot to those behind the project with Ira Lightman saying that he “turned down an offer to teach at the prestigious Arvon Foundation so that he could attend the awards ceremony”.

The Spennymoor letters can still be seen around the town and continue to entertain and perplex visitors. Ira Lightman has since worked on a number of other visual poetry projects, his work has shown up across the North East and is on the walls of Gateshead College’s Baltic Campus. He has also become Digital Poet in Residence at CAMPUS, the online Poetry School.

Website: http://www.urbanwords.org.uk/aplaceforwords/case-study-spennymoor.php

Twitter - @iralightman

Best Event Northumberland: Blyth in a New Light

Taking place as part of the 2006/07 Northumberland Lights Winter Festival, this event saw the skies of Blyth lit up in an event that set the record for Northumberland’s biggest ever lighting and pyrotechnic display.

The Bonfire Night event was the result of a partnership between Blyth Valley Borough Council and Northumberland Strategic Partnership and managed to draw in a crown of 25,000 people to see the light show which culminated in the illumination of the town’s nine wind turbines.

After winning the Best Event Northumberland Award in 2006, the event returned in 2008, when it was also nominated for, and again won, the Best Event Northumberland Award.

Best Event Tyneside: Boss Sounds Reggae Festival

A festival taking place at Northumbria University over the course of a weekend, Boss Sounds brought Reggae legends Jimmy Cliff and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry to the city.

Seeking to give audience members a taste of Reggae throughout it’s history, the festival saw performances from people who were there at the very beginning such as Prince Buster, and went all the way through to demonstrating the influence Reggae has had on more recent bands such as Massive Attack.

Organised by Adam Callerton, the festival managed to draw in audience members from around the world and Jimmy Cliff himself called Boss Sounds “One of the best festivals we have ever played”.

The festival made a return to Newcastle the following year and has returned more than once since, with the most recent festival in 2012 being particularly notable for the reunion of Reggae Legends Dave Barker and Ansel Collins, who played their first gig together in 30 years.

Owen Humphreys/PA Wire The Blades perform over the seafront at Seaburn, as part of the Sunderland International Airshow
The Blades perform over the seafront at Seaburn, as part of the Sunderland International Airshow

Best Event Sunderland: Sunderland International Airshow

A regular and well known event taking place on the Seaburn coastline in Sunderland every year since 1988, the sun decided to shine during the 2006 Airshow and the glorious weather combined with displays from the Red Arrows, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Sea Harrier, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the RAF Parachute Display Team and the Blades.

The flying line-up managed to bring excitement to both aviation enthusiasts and visiting families alike and made this one of the most successful years for the show.

The Sunderland Airshow continues to takeover the Sunderland coastline every year in July with regular appearances from vehicles such as the Red Arrows and a wide range of activities for attendees to get involved with. 2015’s show will take place on Saturday July 25.

Website: http://www.sunderland.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=8205

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SunderlandInternationalAirshow

Best Event Durham: Fine and Fashionable, The Bowes Museum

Officially opened by Vivienne Westwood - also one of the designers contributing to the exhibition - in September 2006, Fine and Fashionable looked at the evolution of lace design throughout history.

The foundation of the exhibition was the collection built up by father and son lace salesmen, Anthony and Arthur Blackborne over the course of 100 years.

With their collection ending in 1952, more contemporary artists were brought in to provide more recent examples and allow visitors of the exhibition an understanding of ways in which lace has evolved into it’s contemporary form.

The Bowes Museum has continued to make great use of its fashion collections and expertise. In 2010 a dedicated Fashion and Textiles Gallery opened and has played host to many popular exhibitions. In 2011, the gallery was joint runner-up in the national Heritage Awards for Excellence’s permanent exhibition category.

The eyes of the style world will be on the Barnard Castle venue in July 2015 when the UK’s first Yves Saint Laurent exhibition: Style is Eternal opens.

Website: www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk/

Twitter: @TheBowesMuseum

Julia Frater, Head of Visit Tees Valley, presenting the award of Best Local Event in Tees Valley to Stockton International Riverside Festival
Julia Frater, Head of Visit Tees Valley, presenting the award of Best Local Event in Tees Valley to Stockton International Riverside Festival

Best Event Teesside: Stockton International Riverside Festival

Dubbed the ‘Festival with Altitude’, this nickname might be some clue as to where SIRF 2006 put it’s focus. Over the course of the festival’s five day run, visitors to 2006’s Riverside Festival were treated to a number of events with many focusing firmly on aerial acts.

Two of these acts - Brazilian circus Circo Da Madrugada and tightrope duo Duo Du Haut - came to Stockton for the world premiere of their latest works, Caiu Do Ceu (Fallen from the Sky) and event closer Les Funambules (respectively).

The festival was originally created in 1988 in order to fill a gap in the yearly theatre programme but has since gone on to become a huge part of Stockton’s annual Cultural programme, bringing the town an exciting series of works.

Seeking inspiration from European festivals in Holland, France and Spain, the Stockton festival is a much looked forward to outdoor art spectacular with a focus on international performers and companies.

Over the almost three decades since its debut, the budget and ambition for the event has grown, allowing for more street theatre, dance, circus and music acts to get involved.

Website: http://sirf.co.uk/

Twitter: @SIRF_Stockton

Culture Club Event of the Year: The Victoria Tunnel Visit with Ouseburn Heritage

March 2006 gave members of the Culture Club what was - at the time - an incredibly rare opportunity to go on a tour of a seemingly forgotten piece of Newcastle’s history: the Victoria Tunnel.

Originally designed in the 19th Century in order to transport Coal from Spital Tongues to the Quayside, during the Second World War, the tunnel was converted into an air raid shelter.

At a time when the tunnel was only accessible by special appointment, the two tours made available to Culture Club members by the help and cooperation of Ouseburn Trust was a wonderful opportunity to gain access to a piece of the city’s history.

In 2008 parts of the Victoria Tunnel underwent some restoration and repair work, and though it’s still only short stretches of the tunnel’s length which are accessible, the repairs have made the tunnel suitable enough for Ouseburn Trust to operate regular guided tours for members of the public to attend.

As of 2010 the tours are run by fully trained volunteer tour guides, meaning that any member of the public interested now has the opportunity to see the tunnel.

Website: https://ouseburntrust.org.uk/victoria-tunnel/

Twitter: @iloveouseburn

Best Overall Event: Stockton International Riverside Festival

Of the five winners in the Best Event categories, 2006 saw Stockton International Riverside Festival take the Best Overall Event Award as a result of it’s programme based around aerial acts. Frank Wilson, who founded the festival said at the time: “It’s a great and genuine surprise to win the two awards, given the competition - and brilliant for the whole team who are involved in putting the festival on.”

At the time the festival was close to it’s 20th anniversary. It has since reached that milestone and taken place each year since managing to bring exciting theatre to Stockton - a particular highlight being their 2012 large scale retelling of the Prometheus story Prometheus Awakes as part of their 25th Anniversary.

Website: http://sirf.co.uk/

Twitter: @SIRF_Stockton

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