Epic Awards The Epic Awards shine a spotlight on the achievements of creative groups across the UK and Republic of Ireland each year. The 2020 Epic Awards closed for applications on 14 June 2020. This year, a diversity of inspiring groups and projects were awarded at our first virtual ceremony on Thursday 22 October. Discover the stories of each winner. Read more in our press release. Each year, shortlisted entries are put forward for the highly coveted People's Choice Award while winners and runners-up from each of the four main categories (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales) are selected by our panel of judges. The Epic Awards are an annual chance for your creative group or project to be recognised for the incredible work you've done over the past year. Follow Voluntary Arts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with news about this year's Epic Awards. 2017 People's Choice Award winners Roscommon Solstice Choir celebrating their win on BBC One's Breakfast show About Shortlist 2020 winners Back to Home Your Creativity Epic Awards Epic Awards 2019 winners 2019 Epic Awards winners and runners-up announced at ceremony in Edinburgh The Epic Awards are the premier awards for voluntary arts and creative groups across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland Epic Awards Ceremony took place at Central Hall in Edinburgh on Thursday 3 October, as the finale to the CONNECT+ programme of activity with Amateo, the European network for active participation in cultural activities and Luminate, Scotland's Creative Ageing Organisation The ceremony, hosted by BBC Scotland presenter Janice Forsyth, announced the winners and runners-up for each national award (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) and also winners of the People’s Choice Award, Peer Award, Local Hero Award and the Celebrating Diversity Award The Epic Awards, now in their ninth year, are the premier awards for voluntary arts groups based in United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, shining a light on their achievements and aiming to inspire others to get involved and participate in artistic and creative activities. The Awards are run by Voluntary Arts, who promote active engagement in creative, cultural activities. Many of the 63,000 voluntary arts groups eligible in the UK and Republic of Ireland have put themselves forward for the Awards. The judging panels in each of the nations selected a total of 31 groups to be shortlisted for the final awards. The winner and runner-up from each nation were announced on 3 October at Central Hall in Edinburgh. The event was held as part of a programme of activity celebrating active ageing and creativity and hosted by presenter Janice Forsyth. The 2019 winners received bespoke crafted awards made by arts collective Jangling Space, as well as a cash prize. 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. "Glorious celebration of innovative, brave, life-changing projects being created by volunteers across the UK."Janice Forsyth, BBC Radio Scotland, host of the Epic Awards 2019 ceremony Huge thank you to our fantastic supporters and sponsors: EPIC AWARDS 2019 WINNERS: ENGLAND WINNER The Bureau Centre for the Arts CIC is led by Blackburn residents and artists wanting to make a positive change in the town by creating a space for local people to come together creatively to learn new skills and strengthen community links. In April 2019, the centre venue, St. John’s Church, and its contents was destroyed by a fire. Since then, the directors and volunteers that make up The Bureau’s diverse community have worked tirelessly to keep its ethos and opportunities alive. With the support of partners across the town, they recently got keys for their new base in the former Thwaites Visitor and Training Centre. “The Bureau is more than an arts centre. As well as providing opportunities for people of all ages to experience and make art in all its forms, we’ve become a hub in the town, providing a safe space for people to learn, grow and belong. We are extremely delighted to have won this award. We have had a very challenging year with the loss of our building, due to fire, in April and morale was low, so this really couldn't have come at a better time for us. There are so many hard working volunteers and supportive community members who make The Bureau the special place, and family that it is, allowing us to help people build self confidence, give access to arts experiences, and improve community cohesion. Often volunteer work doesn't get the recognition that it deserves, and people all over the world really do put their lives into doing what they can, for free, to help others and to improve the world around them. This award is a wonderful recognition for the people that are part of our team and we are really proud to accept it on behalf of everyone who has ever had a part in our journey.”Kerris Casey-St.Pierre, Director of The Bureau Centre for the Arts IRELAND WINNER Lagan Currachs is a community boat building project. Meeting twice a week over 9 months the group built a 33ft 12 person currach. The project involved 80 volunteers from across Belfast and beyond in different stages of the build. The boat itself was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund. Since her launch in 2017, 1000 people have rowed the boat in locations including Portaferry, Belfast lough and Rathlin. In 2018 Lagan Currachs joined with the Comcille group and the Row the Erne group and rowed across to Islay, Jura and Gigha over 8 days. The group have also welcomed community groups and charity members to row with them and enjoy the sense of community and shared adventure whilst out on the water. “The Lagan Curragh project was aimed to build community relations, improve personal wellbeing and engage with everyone in our society all from building a boat. The hard work and dedication that our volunteers and rowers have to creating such a welcoming, dynamic and special group has been instrumental in making this wonderful project a really amazing community. We are elated at winning this award for Ireland. Everyone's relationship to this project is unique and special in their own way and winning an award to highlight how special this boat is reinforces how special it is to us." Kylah Dittmar, chair of Lagan Currachs SCOTLAND WINNER "Where can I go to make music?" asked one refugee from El Salvador arriving in Scotland. The answer he was given was “Musicians in Exile” - a community project for asylum seeking and refugee musicians in Glasgow. Professional facilitators help the ensemble shape their rehearsals, but what and how they play and perform is up to the musicians themselves. There is a great deal of intercultural interaction between the musicians, supporting each other musically and performing in mixed languages and styles. As many asylum seekers flee without their instruments, these are purchased where possible and given to the musicians on long-term loan. Once every two months, they perform in Glasgow, live-streaming the concerts on their Facebook page. This gives everyone a regular goal and also presents the musicians to the wider public. Legally forbidden to work, playing in the ensemble offers the musicians an outlet to give back to their host communities. Music is a universal language, with the power to bridge cultural and language barriers - asylum seekers who are still mastering English, as well as audiences unfamiliar with the cultures of new Scots, find this particularly meaningful. Through the group, the musicians build a new sense of family, networks with local musicians and retrieve their intrinsic cultures, benefiting their own well-being and that of the wider community. "When you flee a troubled land, you've not only left everything behind, but also have to start over in a very foreign land. Musicians In Exile gives asylum seeking musicians their instruments and voices back so they can regularly rehearse and perform again, retrieve their cultures, rebuild their networks, friendships and give back to their host communities. It's an incredibly simple project, and as well as being revealing and healing." Paul MacAlindin, Artistic Director of The Glasgow Barons WALES WINNER The Homeless on Film project, supported by homelessness charity The Wallich, engaged 20 people who have experienced homelessness and rough sleeping in 3 filmmaking projects in South Wales. Participants were trained and equipped with the skills to produce their own films, learning animation, lighting, filming, scripting, interviewing and editing. The resulting short documentaries are inspiring stories of adversity, addiction, mental health, courage and hope. The project enabled and empowered people to tell their story and take full control of the creative process, and 18 of the 20 participants are in recovery and stable situations looking to develop their creativity further. CELEBRATING DIVERSITY AWARD WINNER Kirrie Connections is a community dementia support hub, based in the rural Angus town of Kirriemuir. Each week it hosts a variety of different sessions for its members who are living with dementia, and their family carers. Over the past year their arts and crafts groups have tried out activities such as rug-making, mosaicking, printmaking and plaster mould casting to name but a few. The project would be nothing without the incredible support it gets from its team of over 30 volunteers, who each bring a wealth of skills, knowledge and experience to the sessions. Lack of social interaction can have a hugely detrimental effect for people with dementia, and can lead to a spiral of depression and acceleration of the progress of their dementia. Kirrie Connections’ person-centred approach ensures that people with dementia can remain active and creative members of their community. Creative projects are always initiated by conversations between the volunteers and members, with everything produced coming from a joint process. Whatever the activity, the arts and craft group is always one of the highlights of the week for those taking part. "Kirrie Connections is delighted that our team of volunteers has been recognised with this award. The passion and dedication they show in supporting our members who are living with dementia really makes Kirrie Connections a special place. Every week they are a vital part in ensuring that people with dementia remain active and engaged in their local community." Graham Galloway PEER AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE (chosen by the shortlisted groups) MAN UP was a performance about masculinity and mental health initiated in 2017 by participatory performance company, Restoke. In six months over 60 men joined in conversations, shared stories and took part in creative workshops in dance, singing, illustration and poetry. 17 of these men from very different walks of life went on to co-create and perform MAN UP. These 17 worked with four professional performers to develop the performance from their own ideas, stories and lived experiences. This was rehearsed and performed in Goldenhill Working Mens Club on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent. The final performance was in August 2018 over four nights the cast performed to total audiences of 590. The work to address mental health issues is now being continued through a new project, Up Men. PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD WINNER & IRELAND RUNNER-UP (People's Choice Award is chosen by the public in an online vote which had a total of more than 7,000 votes) Established in 2017, the Oriel Traditional Orchestra was founded with the aim to explore the musical heritage of the region and grew to become a cross-border intergenerational community orchestra. It was initially self-funded and led by four local music teachers and lecturers on a voluntary basis. OTO attracted children learning instruments, regularly playing adults and those who didn’t have other opportunities to continue playing. The group gained charitable status and worked to host rehearsals in three locations to accommodate members across the region. Members are involved in organisational and logistical roles within OTO. The group have since been successful in gaining funding for the commissioning of a new suite of music inspired by the region, premiered in April 2019. "We are thrilled that we have achieved recognition so quickly. We have developed a great sense of community and grown in confidence as opportunities have opened up for us to share our music and develop new friendships. The 2019 Ireland Award resonates with our ethos and this recognition will further encourage and inspire us to continue to develop and contribute to our community." EPIC AWARDS 2019 RUNNERS UP: ENGLAND RUNNER-UP Drama Express is an innovative, inclusive arts organisation based within Cornwall that is aimed at young people between 10 and 18 years with a diagnosis of complex support needs. The group's pantomime project in 2018 involved the young people in the writing process, construction of the set, designing costumes and promoting the final performances. There was careful and considerate planning of every last detail to ensure that all aspects of the performance were accessible to those with different requirements and the shows were both signed and audio described for audiences. The project has had a hugely positive impact on the confidence and skills of the young people and encouraged audiences and other organisations to think about the potential for all young people. “Drama Express has flourished through its association with voluntary arts and recognition through the Epic Awards is the icing on the cake. Drama Express is based in distant Cornwall, however you will still be able to hear us celebrating our Epic Award. We are absolutely delighted that the Epic Award celebrates the achievements of young people with complex disabilities through participation in the performing arts.” Simon Allison SCOTLAND RUNNER-UP 24 Carat Gold are a group of dancers who met at Dance Base in Edinburgh nine years ago, when they took part in a class for people aged over 60. They enjoyed the class so much, they decided to set up their own group to have more opportunities to dance, experiment with choreography and perform. The dancers in 24 Carat Gold are aged from 60 to 87 years old and their dance experiences range from contemporary, jazz, tap, ballet, belly dancing and line dancing to ballroom and Scottish country dancing. The group meets fortnightly, and funds its own sessions. The Carats regularly take part in festivals and events, performing for large and small but always appreciative crowds. They work hard, dance, laugh, share thoughts and emotions – they help each other celebrate the good things and listen and support during sad times. They teach each other, learn different styles of dance from each other and have a lot of fun. “Winning an Epic Award is a very special landmark for the 24 Carat Gold dancers. We get so much pleasure from dancing together and sharing the fun of learning new routines. The Award is lovely because it shows us that other people have enjoyed our efforts too and they have realised that age is absolutely no barrier to learning new skills.” Jill Knox, 24 Carat Gold WALES RUNNER-UP Heritage Theatr Cymru is a new, voluntary company of ten women, which aims to explore Welsh heritage in a local context and in a sustainable way. All the participants are involved in all aspects of a play from page to stage. The play Through Our Eyes has been performing simultaneously in different locations and has changed its focus to suit different locales. It focuses on famous and long-forgotten women from the 19th century and portrays six different but interwoven stories. The project aims to challenge audiences and push the boundaries of personal creative development. “Many thanks to all of our supporters. This Epic Award is very important to Heritage Theatr Cymru and as part of our profile will now signpost audiences to the core of our ethos, which is collaboration to create creative excellence. By researching heritage stories of women from Wales who are famous or long forgotten, we present them as living theatre. As playwright and director, I work closely with the ten members of our company to translate the stories from page to stage. The Epic Award is very valued by our cast and the company who give of their time and effort freely each week and have raised large amounts of money for charity. Thank you Voluntary Arts Wales for your support and recognition.” Arlene Pryce - playwright/director LOCAL HERO AWARD (a new award for 2019 with the winner nominated by the host nation) Arthur Howie is a local photographer who supports the local photography group and many projects in the area. For example, he managed the Recovery Nights Open Mics Exhibition, teaches people how to make bread for the community meals, and has set up photography sessions for local people. He also volunteers in the North Edinburgh Arts café. QUOTES Robin Simpson, Chief Executive of Voluntary Arts said: “Since 2010 Voluntary Arts has showcased the excellence and innovation of local voluntary arts groups from every corner of the UK and Ireland through our annual Epic Awards. The stories of more than 80 winning groups over the past 9 years have demonstrated the amazing ingenuity, willpower and determination with which volunteers are transforming local communities across the UK and Ireland through their creative activities. And the 2019 Epic Awards winners and runners-up are a humbling and inspiring tribute to simple power of people expressing themselves creatively in their everyday lives and practising their creativity socially with other people.” Helen Whately MP, Minister of State for Culture in the UK Government, said: “The Epic Awards do a fantastic job at shining a spotlight on the work of volunteers working in our arts and cultural sectors. I want to congratulate and thank all of the winners and nominees of the 2019 awards for their contribution to making sure the UK culture and arts scene continues to thrive.” Tracy Meharg, Permanent Secretary, Department of Communities in Northern Ireland said: "I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate this year's Irish winner 'Lagan Currachs' and the runners up 'Oriel Traditional Orchestra'. I was immediately struck by the inclusive nature of both of these projects, and the enormous amount of hard work and dedication invested in them by the groups. It is also interesting to note that both the winner and the runner-up this year are committed to the preservation and promotion of traditional skills in their respective artistic sectors, whether it be music or craft techniques. Our cultural traditions and art-forms are immensely valuable, and form an important part of our cultural identity. I therefore commend both groups for their efforts in sustaining these and bringing them to life for a new generation. The Department for Communities is delighted to support Voluntary Arts Ireland in recognising and celebrating the efforts, creativity, and achievements of volunteers, and their value within the arts sector, through these awards." Josepha Madigan TD, Minister for Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht in the Republic of Ireland, said: "The Epic awards recognise the volunteerism which thrives across so much of the arts and cultural sector. I would like to congratulate Lagan Currachs, a community boat building project on becoming this year’s Ireland winners. The award is a true recognition of the sense of community that can be built from everybody ‘rowing’ together to build a boat. Winning the People’s Choice Award is also an incredible accolade for the Oriel Traditional Orchestra and reflects its huge achievements in founding a cross border intergenerational ensemble whose aim is to explore the musical heritage of the region. 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." Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs in Scotland said: "I would like to congratulate all of the winners of the 2019 Epic Awards, including Musicians in Exile, which has done so much to help asylum seeking and refugee musicians in Glasgow. Voluntary arts is a truly vibrant sector: over 60,000 arts and crafts groups across the UK, including over 10,000 in Scotland alone, meeting regularly in town halls, libraries, theatres, churches, mosques and at kitchen tables. The Scottish Government believes that as many people as possible should be able to participate in these groups, which bring people of all backgrounds together to empower, enrich and shape their communities through arts and culture." Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism in Wales said: "As the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport & Tourism, I am pleased to be able to offer my congratulations to the two groups from Wales who are receiving an Epic Award 2019. The Homeless on Film project enabled marginalised people to use film to tell their stories, stories in which we should all find great examples of the human spirit overcoming adversity. Heritage Theatr Cymru’s communal approach to creativity reminds us of the forgotten stories of the ordinary women who have contributed enormously to Welsh history. Llongyfarchiadau i chi i gyd!"