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Culture Awards 2009: Newcomer of the Year

SUNDERLAND-based artist Sophie Lisa Beresford is nominated predominantly for her work My Culture is Beautiful, which brought her to wider attention in 2009.

Winner: Sophie Lisa Beresford

SUNDERLAND-based artist Sophie Lisa Beresford is nominated predominantly for her work My Culture is Beautiful, which brought her to wider attention in 2009.

The piece, which was shown in the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, used footage of Sophie dancing to Spanish Makina music, juxtaposing traditional ideas of culture with the artist’s own personal understanding of culture and its associated music, dance and fashion rituals.

Sophie says: "I am really excited about being shortlisted! I have been working as an artist for almost two years now and it feels great to get an award for your work. The last year has been a ride!

"Beginning my career as an artist has been quite an experience. I have had many challenges to meet and many lessons to uncover.

"As I move into making my new body of work I find that it is revealing a lot to me about myself and my art.

"It is beautiful to be nominated for an award for what you do. It has let me know that my work is more widely appreciated than I knew."

Finalist: Toby Martinez de las Rivas

STILL in his 20s, Toby Martinez de las Rivas is a gifted poet. After growing up in Somerset, he moved to the region after studying history and archaeology at Durham, where he began writing.

Now based in Gateshead, where he teaches English to asylum seekers and refugees, Toby was selected from a field of thousands in 2009 as one of four poets published and mentored by distinguished publisher Faber and Faber.

His first collection was published in pamphlet form in the summer of 2009.

A national tour alongside his fellow Faber and Faber poets, and their editor, Matthew Hollis followed.

The tour took the group from Cambridge to Carlisle, including a date in Durham, which, according to his glowing nomination, saw Toby wowing a 160-strong crowd. Already being touted as the next big thing for British poetry, we should all be thrilled that he’s nicely settled here.

Toby says: "I was very happy and surprised to be nominated and shortlisted for the award.

"Recently, I have been on tour with the Faber New Poets, going to read in several cities all over England, which was a fantastic experience. More prosaically, I have also been sitting down and writing as much as is possible with two young children.

"Overall, the last year has been a strange and exciting one.

"After having written pretty solidly for 10 years, everything has seemed to come all at once which has been very nice."

Finalist: Jonathan Bloxham

FORMER Newcastle Royal Grammar School pupil Jonathan Bloxham is nominated for his work in founding a new chamber music festival for the North East.

The 21-year-old cellist, who grew up in Whickham, Gateshead, before his music studies took him to London, wanted to give something back to the region which had supported him on the road to a career as a classical musician.

And so the Northern Chords Festival was born, and included three concerts at St Mary’s Church in Whickham, Hexham Abbey and The Sage Gateshead.

The concerts featured some of the brilliant young singers and instrumentalists he met in London at the Royal College of Music, where he won the Cello Prize to add to other prestigious prizes and awards.

The festival has returned for 2010, with the added benefit of a Young Musician of the Year competition, the winner of which played at last night’s award ceremony.

Jonathan says: "I feel extremely privileged to be. Although I now live in London, I will always be drawn back to my roots in the North East, and thanks to the wonderful support from audiences and colleagues, I’m able to perform here regularly.

"It was the North East that introduced me to classical music, in particular the inspiring teaching I had through the Gateshead Music Service, and I’m eternally grateful for that.

"Last year I decided it was time to try to give something back to the region, and so I set up a new chamber music festival, Northern Chords, and I hope that it will help encourage the next generation of young musicians."

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