Voluntary and amateur arts groups are the grass roots of creative expression. People have always gathered together to sing, dance, act, tell stories, create visual art and objects of beauty. We created the Epic Awards in 2010 to shine a spotlight on the excellent work of voluntary and amateur arts groups across England. Because of its overwhelming success, we extended the scheme to the UK and Republic of Ireland for 2011.
Entries have included dance, theatre, storytelling, spoken word, community festivals, empty shops, quiltmaking, craft clubs, woodcarving, basketmaking, breakdancing, morris, community radio, carnival, flashmob orchestra, photography, film, barbershop singing, pop up galleries, opera, painting, banner making, ceramics, lacemaking and singing for health.
The 2011 awards saw lots of high-quality entries from around the country which prove once again that there are so many excellent and innovative amateur arts and crafts groups out there.
The England award was won by Peterborough Male Voice Choir who have turned round the fortunes of their group through their innovative ‘New Directions’ project. They successfully modernised the choir, broadened its appeal and ensured that choral singing will be celebrated in Peterborough for years to come.
Phizzfest, a community arts festival in Dublin, scooped the Ireland award. The festival was the community’s response to the recession and was born out of a desire to regenerate the area through a series of diverse arts events in non-traditional venues like fire stations and prisons.
Renfrewshire-based drumming group The Buddy Beat won the Scotland award for their inspiring video documenting the impact music had on their recovery from mental illness. The video has now taken on a life of its own and has been used for conferences and training worldwide!
The Wales award was won by Third Floor Gallery, a pioneering photography gallery in Cardiff. Their innovative way of producing exhibitions has enabled them to host renowned artists who might show at the Guggenheim or Tate!
The winners’ reception was held at the prestigious Royal Over-Seas League in London in January 2012 and was hosted by Lord Luce, President of Voluntary Arts. Government Ministers representing each of the countries sent special messages of congratulations to the winning groups.
Collecting the England award on behalf of the Peterborough Male Voice Choir, Musical Director Will Prideaux shared the stories of two men who have benefitted from belonging to the group. He said:
“Voluntary arts organisations transform lives and build stronger communities. I love the stories of friendships created and enthusiasm rediscovered or of depression beaten, horizons broadened or prejudices cast aside; of hope, of trust, of a sense of belonging or simply giving people something to look forward to – the list is endless and endlessly amazing.”
Tina Robinson accepted the Ireland award on behalf of Phizzfest, the Phibsborough Community Arts Festival, and said:
“Our experience to date has shown us the importance of the arts as a community development tool forging links and creating channels of communication within the many diverse groups in our area. Phizzfest is run entirely by volunteers and this award is a huge validation of our efforts and has given us great encouragement to continue with this project.”
Tom Chalmers from Scottish drumming group The Buddy Beat said:
“With the film we want to inspire people to get out there and get involved and if anybody’s got a mental health condition they should never let that hold them back because there’s so much out there that they can participate in – it helps you improve your mental health and your self-worth.”
Wales winners Third Floor Gallery gave a very entertaining speech about their humble beginnings and thanked all the photographers who entrusted their images to the gallery and endorsed their unique way of presenting exhibitions.
To see photos, read case studies and find out more, head to the Epic Awards website.