WINNER: Alison Gangel, writer
A childhood spent in care offered Alison Gangel a rich, if often awful, tapestry from which to draw inspiration for her debut literary offering, The Sun Hasn’t Fallen From the Sky.
The 48-year-old Burnopfield-based English teacher says she just wanted to write, and instinctively wrote about the memories from when she and her siblings were young.
The resulting memoir was welcomed on a wave of high acclaim, including the accolade of being selected as Radio Four’s Book of the Week.
This was an incredibly moving and wonderfully written book which deserved every bit of praise it enjoyed. We look forward to reading more and are pleased to hear Alison is working on her second novel.
Alison says: “My highlights for last year were many – Radio 4’s Book of the Week, Waterstone’s Scottish Book of the Month, appearance at the Aye Write festival in Glasgow, Edinburgh Book festival, kids coming up to me in school and saying, ‘Miss, me mam really liked your book’.”
FINALIST: Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny, band
It is widely agreed that Newcastle-bred Beth and her band are currently galloping towards the big time.
After coming to the attention of those in the know three-or-so years ago with her debut EP, Beth is now backed by the wonderfully christened Hooves of Destiny and offers flavours of flamboyant folk soaked in a pop marinade to an ever-increasing crowd of admirers
It’s fair to say that 2011 was a breakthrough year for Beth who finally got to release her debut album, Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose and was described as “a force of nature” by 6 Music’s Marc Riley.
Beth has certainly established herself on the music scene and she is now splitting her time between Newcastle and Los Angeles where she is friends with rock royalty Anthony Kiedis. Of Red Hot Chilli Pepper legend.
FINALIST: GIFT – Gateshead International Festival of Theatre
The inaugural festival offered a regional showcase featuring a mix of performances, workshops, screenings and discussions in and around the town centre.
Director Kate Craddock said the idea behind the festival was to create a new cultural hub from, and for, the Gateshead community and a platform to showcase new work from the region alongside cutting edge theatre from around the world.
And we think it gets a big tick thanks to a programme which included Unfolding Theatre and Left Luggage Theatre companies and placed them alongside artists from Bilbao and Seoul, to name but a pair. Kate Craddock, festival director, says: “Last year GIFT was a pilot event. We wanted to try it out and see if there was the potential or demand for an event like it in the region – and we were delighted with the success of the festival, as well as the level of support for it from a community of artists and theatre makers working in the North East.
“We have been extremely busy planning for this year’s GIFT which will take place on May4-6. We are really excited that GIFT is back in 2012.”