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Culture Awards Arts Council Award finalists: AV Festival, Great North Passion and Steamsong

A trio of top drawer nominees are up for the award, which is supported by Arts Council England

Great Art and Culture Inspires. Arts Council encouraged nominations for an arts or cultural events or pieces of work that inspired and had an impact in 2014.

AV Festival 2014

Throughout March 2014, AV Festival brought a celebration of art, music and film to the North East. Focusing on the theme of Extraction, it presented 11 exhibitions, 36 film screenings, 10 concerts and 11 new commissions which collectively drew more than 80,000 visitors to the region.

Artists such as Richard Skelton and the Elysian Quartet, Wang Bing and Chris Watson were among those responding to the natural landscape of the North East and beyond.

One stand out event was the world premiere of DS30. Commissioned to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1984 miners strike, the large-scale outdoor event took place at the dramatic Dunston Staithes, built on the River Tyne in 1893 to ship coal from the local Durham coalfields to the world.

DS30 saw industrial music group Test Dept reform for the first time since 1997 bringing the drama and noise of the site back to life in a sonic, cinematic and lighting intervention, which included a 25-minute film including film archive material from the region.

Festival director, Rebecca Shatwell, says: "AV Festival is proud to be nominated in the category of Arts Council Award, in recognition of the artistic excellence and audience reach of our work. The Festival makes a significant contribution to both the economic and cultural life of the region and works in partnership with many amazing arts and heritage organisations.

"This nomination is testimony to the immense hard work and commitment of all the artists, venues, staff and volunteers we work with to make such an imaginative, challenging and popular large-scale biennial Festival happen in the region. AV Festival is now the longest running contemporary art Festival in the region, and long may it last!"

Great North Passion

Drawing in a live audience of 3,500 while being broadcast live on BBC1 to an audience of around 1.3 million, Great North Passion was a landmark arts and culture event which shone a light on the communities of the North East and offered a platform for them to share their heritage, stories and landscape on a national scale.

Great North Passion event at Bents Park, South Shields.
Great North Passion event at Bents Park, South Shields.

Taking place in South Shields’ Bents park on Easter Weekend 2014, the event, which also served as the launch of the three-year Cultural Spring project - combined live performance, music, poetry, visual arts and dance in a landmarking ‘pop up cathedral’ built with shipping containers, to tell the Easter story of the Passion.

Five hundred performers took part in the event that Lord Tony Hall, director general of the BBC called ‘A wonderful celebration of the Easter Story’.

As well as the main event 12 artists also worked with North East Communities in order to produce an exhibition that was displayed in Bent’s Park South Shield, drawing thousands of visitors to the region and extending the reach of the main event.


Steamsong was a multimedia opera from the National Railway Museum, which premiered at Locomotion in Shildon in February 2014 before enjoying a full performance in at the Gala Theatre, Durham as part of the city’s BRASS Festival in July.

The project was commissioned by Durham County Council and Locomotion to help celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Mallard Steam Train’s breaking of the World Steam Speed Record in 1938.


John Kefala Kerr wrote and composed the score for an ambitious performance which featured projected video, digital sound and an ensemble of singers and instrumentalists, including vocals from the Voices of Hope and narration from actress Zoe Lambert.

The piece took the form of a series seemingly unrelated vignettes, thematically linked and brought together in time and space. John Kefala-Kerr, currently writing his second novel as well as a short opera about a drowned seaman, says: “The great thing about receiving a Journal Culture Award nomination is that it means my work has made an impression, and this is a gratifying feeling.”

There is currently an interactive version of the piece on display in the National Railway Museum and clips from the orchestra can be viewed on the website at www.steamsong.uk


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