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Community Arts Awards 2024

The Cheshire Community Arts Awards took place on 26th March, at the Northwich Memorial Court, hosted by MC Ben Ireson, board member of Cheshire West Voluntary Arts Network.

Special guests included the Deputy Mayor of Northwich, the Lord Mayor of Chester, the Mayor of Neston and the Deputy Mayor of Ellesmere Port and The High Sheriff of Cheshire Mr Dennis Dunn.

The evening started with a performance by Spotlight Youth Dance who were presented with a certificate in recognition of outstanding practice.

The project, led by Cheshire Dance, supports young people in Winsford.  They work with partners New Images Youth and Community Centre, Mind Body Balance Academy, Youth Fed and Winsford Care Community to run Spotlight a project that aims to get young people active to improve their mental health and well-being.

The Music Award went to Helsby Concert Band. The group was set up in 2019 by Jacky Keating, who was teaching lots of children to play instruments, but there were only one or two players at each school, so they were not getting the experience of playing together in an ensemble. So, she created Helsby Concert Band.

They now have 35 members, 10 of whom are under 18, but the members range in age from 9 to over 80.  Some are beginners some have 40+ years’ experience and they all support each other. 

The Visual Arts award went to The Port Sketch Club. The group was inspired by the North End Sketch Club founded and run by artist Jayne Lawless that went on tour to Theatre Porto in Ellesmere Port in Spring 2023 as part of the borough wide, COVID-19 Reflections project.

Members of the community that attended those taster sessions were keen for the project to continue and Theatre Porto were happy to host them and so The Port Sketch Club was born.

The judges liked this project, that brings members of a community together through participation in art to support their socialisation and wellbeing.

The judges also gave a Highly Commended award to Visual Arts Cheshire for their work promoting visual arts activity in Northwich and beyond. They hold regular exhibitions of 2D and 3D visual arts at Barons Quay. They are lead partners in the summer Northwich Art Trail, and offer a wide range of workshops free of charge for participants.

The Children and Youth Arts Award was presented to InterACT Youth Theatre. As part of National Theatre Connections, the senior group presented ‘The Heights’ by Lisa McGee in their home venue of Neston Town Hall and before transferring to The Lowry.

They then took the play to Leverhulme Drama Festival where it was the overall winner in the youth category with three individual actors also picking up awards for comedy and Best Young Actress.

The junior group created a play called ‘Romeo and Juliet – in our own words’, that they performed at the Leverhulme Drama Festival, for which they received the Adjudicator’s Award for Endeavour and a young actor picked up the Best Actor Award.

A Highly Commended award was also presented to Minerva Arts – Malpas Youth Theatre.  The judges liked the accessibility of this group for its young people, the fact it was led by someone from their own locality and the participants ability to weave their own personal experiences into their projects.

The Performing Arts Award was presented to Ashton Hayes Theatre Club. An award-winning group in their 74th year.  The group are based in and perform in Tarvin Community Centre, but they also tour productions.

The judges were struck by their pride in being one of the friendliest theatre clubs in Cheshire whilst encouraging participants to get involved with other groups to continue to challenge themselves. The judges were impressed that the club used their performances to help other groups within Cheshire raise money for their theatre clubs, and that they used their art form to raising awareness of issues and funds for charities.

Fallen Angels Dance Theatre were Highly Commended. The judges recognised the bravery and artistry of Angels in sharing their life experiences of addiction with a wider audience, challenging the stigma often linked to addiction.

The Unsung Hero award went to Jack Lacey. Jack is a volunteer who runs ‘spider sounds’ sessions at Café 71.

Cafe 71 is a safe space for adults struggling with emotional and psychological distress. The judges were impressed with Jack’s dedication to ‘spider sounds’ even running a session on Boxing Day last year.  He puts a lot of effort to ensure smooth running sessions that are of interest to members.  The fact that many attendees return week after week as part of their 12 weeks creative recovery program is testament to this.

Cheshire West Voluntary Arts Network’s Outstanding Contribution Award for 2024 went to Debi Whittaker.

Debi was appointed as CEO to Live! Cheshire in 2014. Live! Cheshire is a small and vibrant charity which provides a varied programme of fully inclusive and accessible clubs and social activities for children, young people and adults with disabilities.

The Judges were impressed by Debi’s passion for Live! and its members.  And her ambition to provide high quality learning and recreation for everyone; seeking inspirational cultural leaders and teachers to make this a reality. 

The awards were designed and made by Kirsti Brown

The awards were supported by Cheshire West Voluntary Action through the UK Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund. 

Award winners:

Special Award in recognition of outstanding practice
Spotlight Youth Dance

Music Award
Helsby Concert Band

The Visual Arts award
The Port Sketch Club

Highly Commended
Visual Arts Cheshire

The Children and Youth Arts Award
InterACT Youth Theatre

Highly Commended
Minerva Arts – Malpas Youth       

The Performing Arts Award
Ashton Hayes Theatre Club.

Highly Commended
Fallen Angels Dance Theatre

The Unsung Hero
Jack Lacey

Outstanding Contribution Award for 2024
Debi Whittaker.

Photographs by Stephen Cain.

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