The 2017 Epic Awards winners' reception took place at the Sage Gateshead on Sunday evening (19 March) as part of BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival. Hosted by poet Ian McMillan, the event was a special occasion shining a spotlight on the achievements of this year's winners and runners-up. The Epic Awards are the premier awards for voluntary arts and creative groups across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland and groups travelled from all corners to celebrate with each other in Gateshead.

The Epic Awards, now in their seventh year, aim to inspire others to get involved and participate in artistic and creative activities. The Awards are run by Voluntary Arts and many of the 63,000 voluntary arts groups it represents have put themselves forward for the Awards. The judging panels in each of the nations selected a total of 32 groups to be shortlisted for the final awards.

The winner and runner-up from each nation were announced with winners receiving awards custom made by Cumbria Crystal as well as a package of cash prizes, including mentoring and membership. Winning or being shortlisted for an Epic Award can also have very positive effects for voluntary arts groups, who find their profile raised locally and nationally and that it can help with fundraising efforts.

Epic Awards logoEpic Awards 2017 Winners:

England Winner
The South Devon Players Theatre & Film Company, based in Brixham, have set out to use the talent and ambition of local people to produce a dramatic feature film set in the 6th century. Fundraising, historical research and the skills of the local community have all contributed to making ‘Mordred’ a reality.

Ireland Winner
The Theatre Room Galway began in 2015 and has seen the collective hold thematic monthly performances of one-act plays, with over 120 performances so far and appearances as part of the Galway Fringe Festival and Galway Theatre Festival under their belt.

Scotland Winner
The RE-Tune Project aims to offer people with mental health difficulties the chance to make and play their own stringed instrument. The volunteer-led project in Glasgow provides support, focus and discipline that helps them to develop and consider further training and education.

Wales Winner
Goldies Cymru runs weekly singing sessions across South Wales, providing the opportunity for people who may be otherwise isolated to enjoy Sing and Smile sessions and build confidence and friendships. An intergenerational schools programme encourages communication between age groups.

People's Choice Award Winner (chosen by public in an online vote)
Roscommon Solstice Choir is a 100+ member choir that began with the aim of a one-off series of concerts but has gone on to raise hundreds of thousands for good causes and travel to London to perform for a homeless charity fundraiser.

Celebrating Diversity Award Winner
Rotherham Ethnic Minority Alliance set out to counteract the negative perceptions of the town through an inclusive, creative project entitled Love is Louder. The project involved people from all backgrounds in creating public pieces to share colour and positivity.

Peer Award for Excellence (chosen by the 32 Epic Awards 2017 shortlisted groups)
The RE-Tune Project (see above) has been recognised by the other shortlisted groups at this year’s Epic Awards for their inspiring work with people affected by post-traumatic stress disorder and those experiencing loneliness and isolation.

Sage Gateshead

Epic Awards 2017 Runners Up:

England Runner Up
The Exchange Creative Community in Morecambe has taken over a number of disused retail units in the town’s West End to create a hub for community action and creativity. The volunteer-led space provides free workshops and exhibition spaces.

Ireland Runner Up
NI Big Sock has the very ambitious target of breaking a world record by creating a 52 metre Christmas stocking. Businesses, community groups, museums and schools across Northern Ireland have all been involved in making 3” hexagons to contribute to the piece.

Scotland Runner Up
MugStock Festival in Glasgow has seen a team of volunteer organisers stage a huge festival of “music and merriment for all ages” that attracted over 1,300 people in 2016. They have worked in partnership with local performers and charities to build a fun, inclusive event for the whole community.

Wales Runner Up
Coast Lines encouraged huge numbers of people to contribute to a drawing project inspired by the Pembrokeshire coast. Over 1,500 people were inspired to consider their surroundings and draw something in the communal sketchbooks.

Celebrating Diversity Award Runner Up
Get the Chance gives a platform to everyone to share their views on arts, culture and sport across Wales. The organisation shares personal responses from a diverse range of voices to demonstrate the importance of equal, valid and valued critical opinions.


It’s truly uplifting to see the level of creativity, skill, ingenuity and hard work that the Epic Awards winners and runners-up embody. The range of activity recognised by this year's Epic Awards encompasses singing, crafts, theatre, festivals and creative communities. The Epic Awards ceremony is always a moving and inspirational event, when Voluntary Arts showcases the excellence and innovation exemplified by volunteer-led groups in local communities across the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

- Robin Simpson, Chief Executive of Voluntary Arts

The fantastic work of the South Devon Players shows what can be achieved by the ingenuity and determination of voluntary arts groups. My congratulations to all those shortlisted for the 2017 Epic Awards. These entries demonstrate the importance of promoting creativity in communities and I also applaud organisations like Voluntary Arts in highlighting their extraordinary achievements.

- Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture in the UK

The Epic awards recognise the volunteerism which thrives across so much of the arts and cultural sector. I would like to congratulate Theatre Room Galway on winning this year's award, which recognises the efforts of the group in supporting and developing local creativity. Winning the People's Choice Award is also an incredible accolade for the Roscommon Solstice Choir and reflects the huge achievements of the choir in building a supportive local creative network as well as raising significant funds for charities locally and further afield. These awards capture the wealth of creativity in all of our communities and the many benefits of living in a more creative Ireland. Enabling and enhancing culture and creativity in communities nationwide is central to the Government’s Creative Ireland programme, which aims to put creativity at the heart of public policy, at local and national level, for the very first time.

- Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in the Republic of Ireland

I would like to congratulate this year's Irish winner The Theatre Room Galway and runners­up, NI Big Sock. These are deserving projects which are having an impact within their communities. The Theatre Room is a truly grassroots project growing from within the local community into something with global reach. This is an impressive achievement and to be commended. The NI Big Sock project is a simple idea which draws people together to achieve goal, and forges links within communities in the process. It is also encouraging to see how enthusiastic local businesses have been in contributing to the project and engaging with the communities they work within. I would also like to offer congratulations to the Roscommon Solstice Choir on winning the People's Choice. Thank you to Voluntary Arts Ireland for recognising the value of arts projects within the community and for continuing to support the sector and celebrate its achievements though these awards.

- Leo O'Reilly, Permanent Secretary, Department of Communities in Northern Ireland

I congratulate all those shortlisted for the Epic Awards 2017 for the excellent results achieved in the creative and cultural sector. As this year’s winners for Scotland demonstrate, active engagement in the arts can have a huge beneficial impact on the wellbeing of our communities. Through our commitment to develop a Culture Strategy which embraces the principles of increased access to culture and the arts, equity for all and the pursuit of excellence, we aim to promote the role of creative engagement in enhancing the quality of life for people from all backgrounds.

- Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs in Scotland

I would like to congratulate Goldies Cymru on being named as this year's Welsh Epic Awards winner. It is an impressive project which helps olderpeople across South Wales to increase their confidence levels and enables them to form new friendships through singing and other activity sessions. I also want to recognise the achievement of Coast Lines who were announced as runner up at the awards.

- Ken Skates AM, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure in Wales