CHEERS rang out from Durham Cathedral last night as the great and the good of the North East’s cultural contingent gathered to celebrate all that had been achieved last year.
The occasion was the seventh Journal Culture Awards, which were being held for the first time inside the stunning and historic confines of the World Heritage site.
More than 500 people packed out the pews for an evening designed to reward and applaud the very best of the region’s artistic output, and those responsible for it.Related content
Finalists, friends and family plus sponsors and supporters of the awards joined members of the public to enjoy a three-hour show including a bill of top drawer performances as well as the giving out of handcrafted gongs by ceramic artist, Helena Seget.
Sunderland band The Futureheads closed the show with a slice of their nominated a cappella performance in the Cathedral from last autumn, while Northumberland folk darlings The Unthanks offered a moving extract from their Songs from the Shipyards project, which ended up taking home the Arts Council Award.
Earlier, Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell offered a chapter from the upcoming Lindisfarne Story which will be performed at Newcastle City Hall as part of the Festival of the North East in June, and Bad Taste Cru offered a breathtaking extract from their new production, Faust.
Actor Chris Connel presided over the evening’s proceedings and also performed a duo of extracts from Live Theatre’s upcoming 40th anniversary production, Tyne, with his Pitmen Painters co-star Phillippa Wilson.
Among the 15 winners on the night were Hebburn writer, comedian Jason Cook (Writer of the Year); balletLORENT’s stunning world premiere, Rapunzel (Performance of the Year); Trombonist and percussionist Hannabiell Sanders(Performing Artist of the Year); music artist Mariam Rezaei (Newcomer of the Year); and Richard Rigg (Visual Artist of the Year).
Meanwhile the best events across the region in 2012 were judged to be Peace Camp (Northumberland); Whitley Bay Film Festival (Tyneside); Legion, Kelly Richardson, Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art (Sunderland); Sign in Space, composed by John Kefala Kerr and produced by The Forge for BRASS (Durham); and Africa Express (Teesside), with Peace Camp topping the overall event bill in glowing fashion.
But as the evening drew to a close, there was still one more very special award to be bestowed.
Following a unanimous decision around the judging table, The Journal’s veteran arts editor David Whetstone was given the award for his Special Contribution to North East Arts and Culture.
Giving the citation, and referring to him as “the Columbo of arts journalism”, regional director of Arts Council England Alison Clark-Jenkins said: “Dave has made the arts editor job his own.
“The stereotypes of arts journalism don’t apply at all... he’s neither an elitist aesthete or a celebrity-focused hack.
“He’s astoundingly prolific and his knowledge and expertise has brought the cultural renaissance of the North East into the public eye, consistently and expertly.
“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.”
FOR a full gallery of photographs visit www.journallive.co.uk.