The Journal Culture Awards 2012 were held in the magnificent surroundings of Durham Cathedral.
Performances on the night came from The Unthanks, who performed tracks from their Arts Council Award-winning Songs from the Shipyards; The Lindisfarne Story (Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell); Bad Taste Cru; and The Futureheads who recreated their 2012 performance in the venue, which earned them a nomination in the category of Best Event Durham.
The trophies were designed and made by Newcastle-based ceramic artist Helena Seget.
Visual Artist of the Year: Richard Rigg
In 2012, Richard Rigg was nominated for the Northern Arts Prize and presented his first museum solo presentation, with a new work at BALTIC. He also created a major new work with CIRCA Projects who commissioned Rigg to work with High Desert Test Sites in California to make a new work which was presented online and in Newcastle.
His solo exhibition ‘Lacuna’ at BALTIC included exhibit, A Clearing - one of three commissions by the Gateshead Gallery to marks its 10th anniversary.
It offered a rough and ready-looking mountain hut, housing the view you might expect outside such a cabin, with a hillside mound confronting you inside the wooden door and, underfoot, soil, rocks and stones and the type of hardy plants that survive in high altitudes.
Since winning the award, Rigg has produced both solo and group works, shown in galleries in Gateshead, Middlesbrough, across the US and South Africa. Some of these include collections such as The Difference Loom in 2013 and 2014’s Chance Finds Us.
Performing Artist of the Year: Hannabiell Sanders
Hannabiell Sanders performed in two highlights of the 2012 The !VAMOS¡ Festival’s Durham’s Keep Your Hat On and an Afro-Carnival Masquerade at Hoults Yard in Newcastle.
Originally from New Jersey, where she trained and taught music before continuing her work in South Africa, Hannabiell is based in Jesmond and doing a PhD at Newcastle University. Working with music across generations and cultures, the bass trombone- player, who taught herself African and Latin hand percussion, sets up a version of her Hannabiell and Midnight Blue band wherever she goes.
Her North East version of the band continue to thrill wherever they play.
Hannabiell performs continuously - and in a variety of guises - throughout the region at gigs and festivals, from the Gateshead International Jazz Festival to BBC Children in Need in Stockton in 2014. She also undertakes a variety of musical workshops in schools and youth centres to raise awareness of inequality in our society.
Newcomer of the Year: Mariam Rezaei
The amazing collaboration of young instrumentalists and turntablists for Noisetra at Sage Gateshead won Mariam Rezaei, who led the project, Newcomer of the Year award.
The symphony was created by graphic score made from photographs taken of landmarks in Newcastle.
The following year she took Noisetra to Edinburgh and in 2014 Rezaei was given the Enhancing Communities award with Northern Proud Voices. She took up residence as the first composer at the Lit and Phil and in recent years has worked on a variety of compositions, with commissions across the world including Norway and Israel, as well as the UK.
Writer of the Year: Jason Cook
Comedian Jason Cook based his BBC television show Hebburn on his own life growing up on Tyneside... and won the Culture 2012 Writer of the Year award for his trouble.
Jason starred in the show, alongside Vic Reeves, Gina McKee and (fellow Culture Award winner) Chris Ramsey as well as writing it. It enjoyed two series and a Christmas special.
Jason moved back to the North East from Manchester in 2014 and continues to tour as a stand up. He has had two successful radio shows on Radio 4: Jason Cook’s School of Hard Knocks and Happiness HQ, which also featured his mother. In addition, in 2015 he established a new comedy club, which will have its debut gig in October 2015 before a stellar New Year’s Eve line up graces the stage at the Customs House, South Shields.
Performance of the Year: Rapunzel, balletLORENT, Gala Theatre, Durham
A stunning production, this was choreographer Liv Lorent’s biggest to date, commissioned by Sadler’s Wells and New Writing North and co-produced with Northern Stage.
The performance took place at The Gala Theatre in Durham as part of the Durham Book Festival in October, before going to Northern Stage in February 2013. It boasted a script by Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and a wonderful, evocative musical score by Murray Gold which dipped and soared to catch and underline every nuance and carried the dancers in its sympathetic embrace.
The story told was far removed from Disney’s recent Tangled and harked back to the original dark and menacing version the Grimm Brothers collected in the 19th Century.
Liv Lorent was awarded an MBE for Services to Dance in the 2014 New Year’s Honours List. balletLorent continue to create and perform.
North East Museum Award: Curious Case Of... Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle
Twelve young volunteer curators were invited to delve deep into the treasure trove of the Great North Museum’s stores to select mystery objects for this wonderful exhibition.
Inspired by the voyages of local explorer Captain Cook, the exhibition was led by a team of more than 100 young people from the North East, hoping to inspire others to explore Tyne and Wear Archives and Museum’s world cultures collections.
Where most museum exhibitions seek to give us answers to questions about the past, The Curious Case of... offered only a paragraph here and a chapter there from each of the fascinating object’s stories, encouraging us all to become cultural detectives.
Take the curious case of the sea sponge coat. Thoroughly impractical, hideous to look at and, apparently, rather smelly, this coat made entirely from natural sea sponges is a one of a kind. Where was it from? Why was it made?
For anyone whose curiosity got the better of them, more information uncovered by the young curators was to be found online while the exhibition itself was equipped with iPads and a mini library to encourage investigations.
The Great North Museum opened Pandora’s Box and The Curious Case of... showed us what had spilled out so far.
Best Arts and Business Partnership: Northumbria University and various cultural partnerships
Northumbria University is responsible for helping to launch the careers of many local artists and has a special relationship with a variety of different arts and cultural business and groups in the region. It was these partnerships that earned them the 2012 Best Arts and Business Partnership award. The university continues to collaborate with places such as the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, New Writing North, the Great North Run Culture, BxNU, the Crime Writing Festival and Durham Book Festival among many others, to encourage students and the local public and keep our ‘homegrown’ talents in the area.
Arts Council Award: Songs from the Shipyards
Commissioned by the Tyneside Cinema in February 2011, this was a live audio-visual event that brought to life a century of archive film of shipbuilding from the rivers Tyne, Wear and Tees.
Mercury Music Prize nominees, The Unthanks worked closely with internationally acclaimed Newcastle-based filmmaker Richard Fenwick to produce an emotional journey through the history of the shipyards. While Fenwick re-visualised the footage, The Unthanks scored the 60-minute film, telling a tale of pride and turmoil as audiences were taken through the rise and fall of a once-proud North East industry.
During the 2012 tour, The Unthanks performed live to the film, combining the folk songbook of the shipyard industry (including songs such as Shipbuilding by Elvis Costello) with new compositions and sparse arrangements.
We were thrilled to have The Unthanks performing an excerpt from Songs from The Shipyards at the Culture Awards ceremony at Durham Cathedral.
The Unthanks released their eighth album, Mount the Air, early in 2015 and enjoyed their biggest headline gig on their North East home turf to celebrate.
The band, led by sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank played the Pyramid Stage at the 2015 Glastonbury Festival and continue delight their ever-increasing army of fans, who include Hobbit actor Martin Freeman, Elvis Costello, Robert Wyatt, Ben Folds, Ryan Adams, Rosanne Cash, Dawn French, Paul Morley, Al Murray, Ewan McGregor and Nick Hornby.
Director Richard Fenwick continues to produce short films, including Exhaustion, commissioned by the AV Festival and Observer in 2014.
Best Event Tyneside: Whitley Bay Film Festival
In the summer, this popular event returned for a third consecutive year, once again programming a film schedule across a collection of ‘pop up’ cinemas.
For 2012, Park View Shopping Centre was added to the mix which already included St Mary’s Lighthouse, the Spanish City Dome, the Rendezvous Cafe and the Trojan Rooms. Films included Some Like It Hot, The Birds, The Wizard of Oz, Total Recall and Easy Rider, while a screening of cult zombie film Dawn of the Dead memorably spilled out among the consumer crowds.
A festival highlight was a visit from homegrown, internationally renowned film and TV writer Ian La Frenais who jetted in from Los Angeles for a screening of his Beatles-based film Across the Universe and post show Q&A.
In the three years since winning Culture’s Best Event Tyneside, the Whitley Bay Film Festival has gone from strength to strength. The unusual and intriguing locations used to show classic and new films are one of the inspiring features that bring in people from around the region. Summer 2015 offers - among many other things - a screening of Tommy, and the festival’s very special guest will be Roger Daltrey.
Best Event Sunderland: Kelly Richardson, Legion at the Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art
Uniquely in its history, the Northern Gallery on Contemporary Art devoted the entire main gallery and project space to the work of one artist for this stunning survey of over 15 years’ work.
The resulting show included Kelly Richardson’s early video works from the 1990s and more recent installations, and featured UK premieres of four large-scale works and a major new commission, The Great Destroyer.
Speaking at the time of the nomination, Alistair Robinson, programme director at NGCA said: “We were delighted to have the chance to present much of a whole decade’s worth of (Kelly’s) work, for the first time, at NGCA, as well as to tour Legion around the country.
“The show is now in Buffalo, New York, at a major museum that has acquired four of her works for their permanent collection, before it tours to her native Canada. We’re very proud to have been able to support an artist close to home who is in demand across both sides of the Atlantic.”
Since winning the award, Richardson’s exhibitions and installations, such as Haunted, Mariner 9 and Erudition, have toured spaces in Newcastle, London, Ireland and Vienna. Her current show, Tales on the Horizon, will be on show in Smoca, Arizona from September 12, 2015 to January 10, 2016.
Best Event Northumberland: Peace Camp, Dunstanburgh
One of the most extraordinary sights of the Cultural Olympiad – Peace Camp appeared first as an orange glow against the inky silhouette of Dunstanburgh Castle. As you got closer, the glow became hundreds of dome-like tents, illuminated from within.
It was one of eight glowing camps around the British Isles. Dreamt up by actress and director Fiona Shaw and Deborah Warner, Peace Camp was produced by Lumiere luminaries Artichoke and honoured our literature, coastline and the United Nations Olympic Truce, a traditional call for world peace during the Olympic Games.
The event honoured the region’s poetry, literature and art whilst incorporating the coastline.
Best Event Durham: A Sign in Space composed by John Kefala Kerr, produced by The Forge as part of BRASS: Durham International Festival
On July 21, 2012 more than 800 people witnessed young people take over Durham Cathedral and perform A Sign in Space, a ground-breaking sound opera.
A world premiere and a culmination of a year-long effort called Sounding the Sacred, this project, produced by The Forge in association with Durham Council saw composer John Kefala-Kerr work with 100 young people from across County Durham to develop a sound opera.
The musical piece explored sacred spaces, which combined live instrumental and choral music with digital sound. Young people from a range of backgrounds, some with expertise, some just with boundless enthusiasm put together an innovative and ambitious project.
In 2014, Kefala-Kerr was commissioned by Durham’s Brass Festival and the County Council to compose a new opera, Steamsong to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the iconic locomotive, Mallard, breaking the steam speed record. This was an ambitious multimedia opera, which clocked up two nominations at the Culture Awards 2014 for Best Event Durham and the Arts Council Award.
Best Event Teesside: Africa Express
A carriage-busting collective of musicians pulled onto Teesside in September 2012, spilling a melting pot of music into the town. Led by Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn and African music legend Baaba Maal, the eclectic ensemble also included Carl Barat from The Libertines, East London rapper Kano and North East representatives Rachel Unthank – with the Krar Collective of Ethiopia – and members of Maximo Park.
The arrival on Teesside of the groundbreaking collective – a version of which had wowed the Glastonbury crowds back in 2007 – signaled the start of a week-long trip around the UK, involving a combination of booked gigs and impromptu pop-up performances at shops, factories, schools, offices and on the street as well as the headline gig at the Town Hall.
Best Overall Event: Peace Camp, Dunstanburgh
Special Contribution: David Whetstone
Culture honoured The Journal’s arts and culture editor and Culture magazine founding editor David Whetstone with the Special Contribution award in 2012.
Alison Clark-Jenkins, the then regional director, Arts Council England, took great pleasure in springing the surprise on the then 55-year-old who has been at the helm of The Journal’s arts coverage 22 years.
Giving him the award, she said: “Dave probably thinks he’s just described the cultural renaissance of the North East. What he’s actually done is played a big part in making it matter.”