There has never been more going on in the North-East - so there has never been a better time to launch The Journal Culture Awards.
With the demise of the old Northern Electric Arts Awards, which ran for several years in various formats, the new awards will more than fill a void.
They are an opportunity to reward spectacular achievements in the field of culture, which incorporates museums and heritage as well as the arts, and a chance to celebrate the highlights of an action-packed 2006.
The awards were launched yesterday by The Journal in association with Arts Council England, currently celebrating its 60th anniversary, and a host of sponsors and partner organisations who signed up to our culture initiative.
With a quarter of the year still to run, there is ample time for the main contenders for The Journal Culture Awards 2006 to emerge.
But whoever and whatever they may be, they will have their moment in the spotlight at a special ceremony at Northern Stage on March 26 next year, with £500 and a trophy on offer to the winner in each category.
The categories include best event, newcomer of the year, performance of the year and artist of the year.
There will be an award under the heading Renaissance in the Region and another for the best arts and business partnership. The winner of the Culture Club Award will be decided by members of The Journal Culture Club and there will be a special Arts Council Award to recognise the achievement of an organisation or individual who has demonstrated a successful, creative and innovative way of using arts within the communities in the North-East.
The Culture Awards were welcomed yesterday by senior figures on the North-East arts scene.
Mark Robinson, executive director of Arts Council England, North-East, said: "We are proud to be a partner in the launch of the Culture Awards and the sponsor of the Arts Council Award.
"The awards will recognise the value and contribution that arts and culture make to our region and our everyday lives. We hope that many people will get involved and nominate their favourite arts and cultural organisations, projects and individuals." Andrew Dixon, chief executive of the NewcastleGateshead Initiative, which is sponsoring the performance of the year award, said: "There have been so many world class events in the past year that the awards will have a wealth of riches to choose from. NGI has been working through Culture10 with fantastic projects throughout the North-East and it is clear that the talent based in the region has never been stronger."
Anthony Sargent, general director of The Sage Gateshead, said: "People working in the arts contribute so much to the region's internationally distinctive profile, and to the quality of life of people living and working here. It will be marvelous to see some of those achievements recognised."
Northern Stage director Erica Whyman said: "I am very pleased that Northern Stage is hosting the 2006 Culture Awards. It is another example of how our partnership with The Journal is helping to celebrate the creativity and achievements of artists, performers and cultural organisations in our region. The awards are a great showcase for the range of work in the North-East."
Journal readers are welcome to nominate an event or an individual for an award but you will need an entry form. To request one, or to find out more information, telephone Julie Moorhouse on (0191) 201-6119, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.journallive.co.uk/cultureawards and www.journalcultureclub.co.uk