News & Opportunities News Winners announced for Creative Lives Awards Run by Creative Lives, the Creative Lives Awards are open to any amateur group or project based in the UK and Ireland. In 2021/22 we celebrated resilience and imagination during the Covid-19 pandemic, awarding groups that carried on being creative despite the challenges they faced. Meet the wonderful winners who attended our ceremony at Coventry Cathedral. CREATIVE LIVES AWARDS 2021 WINNERS: ENGLAND WINNER May Project Gardens - a South London-based grassroots organisation whose mission is to empower marginalised groups to address poverty and access to resources, and to exert influence through sustainability and creativity. Ian Solomon-Kawall from May Project Gardens, England Winners, said: We are proud of the work that May Project Gardens did during the pandemic by continuing to provide a safe space for our Hip-Hop Garden participants. This included using Hip-Hop to help them express their feelings about lockdown, maintaining their wellbeing by keeping fit with outdoors training using music, alongside building a natural straw bale classroom that has slowly been turned into a music studio. IRELAND WINNER Black Box Projects - a Belfast-based community run for and by people living with learning disabilities, supported by a team of dedicated volunteers from within the Black Box venue in Belfast. Shifting to online delivery, the group stayed connected through a diverse programme including a book club, discussion group and music sessions. Seonaid Murray from Black Box Projects, Ireland Winners, said: We are really proud of our Black Box Projects Volunteer Team for bringing so much enthusiasm, creativity and support to our projects and activities. Our group members were socially isolated before the pandemic so it was really essential to keep connected and sustain a regular routine for our group while many services had stopped. We are delighted for the recognition from the Creative Lives Awards! SCOTLAND WINNER Overdrive Dance Company - a group that promotes dance for boys and young men living in Glasgow. Each person harnessed their skills to shift work online; showcasing creativity and resilience throughout. They reworked their upcoming stage performance 3billion to be presented on screen instead. Hayley Earlam from Overdrive Dance Company, Scotland Winners, said: I’m so proud of the young people of Overdrive Dance Company. During the pandemic, we delivered online Zoom sessions to keep the young people connected and to continue having dance in our lives. Over this time, they went above and beyond to keep being creative and they supported each other through tough times. I couldn’t be more proud of their commitment, resilience and creativity. WALES WINNER Cricieth Creadigol / Creative Criccieth - a small, bilingual, seaside town on the coast of north-west Wales. In response to the pandemic, the community was encouraged to get creative through a series of imaginative voluntary-led projects. Catrin Jones from Creative Criccieth, Wales Winners, said: I am so proud that we responded to the challenges imposed by Covid-19 with compassion, energy and vision. We reached out, through varied creative projects to involve hundreds in the community, drawing on talents from across the generations and from all the districts of the town, contributing to people’s well-being and quality of life. The response from individuals and community groups to our varied imaginative projects have been fantastic. PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD WINNER (chosen by the public in an online vote) Drumgoon Hill Old Graveyard Committee - a group who presented Hooley in the House, as part of the national Culture Night festivities in County Cavan. Recording footage that combined music, singing and storytelling, the event was shared online for the whole community to engage with and enjoy. PEER AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE (chosen by the shortlisted groups) May Project Gardens was awarded their second accolade of the evening, alongside co-winner Celf-Able - an inclusive, disabled-led art group from Wales that moved its weekly sessions online, to continue advocating for accessibility across arts. Sue Patch from Celf-Able, recipients of the Peer Award for Excellence, said: We are so proud and delighted that the work Celf-Able has been doing over lockdown has been recognised and appreciated. We were fortunate to get enough funding to allow us to send out art packages to our members and a Zoom subscription so we could all meet up virtually. We now meet face to face and continue with ‘zoom in the room’ for those unable to attend. We know from our members how much they appreciate our service - albeit in a different form - and will continue to keep going in whatever media we can! LOCAL HERO AWARD With the awards taking place in Coventry as part of the UK City of Culture, the Local Hero Award was awarded to Mark Gibbins of Coventry Men’s Shed. Mark been running this group for eight years, with little funding and by giving up huge amounts of his free time to support men who are vulnerable and at risk of suicide. CELEBRATING DIVERSITY AWARD WINNER Coffee ’n’ Laughs - a friendship group for women “of all faiths and none” in the ethnically diverse area of Maindee, Newport in South Wales. Sue Lewis from Coffee ’N’ Laughs, Winners of the Celebrating Diversity Award, said: Coffee ’n’ Laughs is a great gang, and we couldn't have spent lockdown with a better set of friends. We natter, knit and stitch, and didn't miss a beat when we were suddenly locked down. We enjoyed twice weekly Zooms where we discussed and tackled hard subjects, as well as bringing craft, poetry and photography workshops to the group. It was a case of fabulous friends, at a time of isolation. CREATIVE LIVES AWARDS 2021 RUNNERS UP: ENGLAND RUNNER UP Inside Out - a collective of 70 local people in Fleetwood that came together with artist Gillian Wood and over 200 local volunteer sewers to make gowns for the NHS. Tina Redford of LeftCoast, whose team organised Inside Out, the England Runner-up, said: We are proud of the Inside Out exhibition as it is a great example of creative people coming together, in extraordinary circumstances, to realise something very much bolder and bigger than what we can produce as single individuals. During the pandemic, 70 volunteer creatives produced over 300 artworks and we exhibited those to 500 (socially-distanced) visitors in the wards of the old Fleetwood Hospital. IRELAND RUNNER UP Drumgoon Hill Old Graveyard Committee - a group that created a night of music and creativity for the whole community. Gemma Kettle of Drumgoon Hill Old Graveyard, Ireland Runner-up, said: We're proud of the work that the Drumgoon Hill Old Graveyard team does, because of the many fantastic people it involves. Over the pandemic we delivered the online event Hooley in the House and this helped to safely showcase the wonderful talent and creativity of the Cavan area while overcoming the restrictions which impacted on the local community. We feel honoured, happy and humbled to be recognised. SCOTLAND RUNNER UP The Survivor Arts Community - a Glasgow-based group that delivers illustration workshops for survivors of sexual abuse or domestic violence. During the pandemic their workshops moved online, culminating in a digital exhibition that challenged misconceptions about abuse and survivors. Angie Spoto of Scotland Runner-up, The Survivor Arts Community, said: We're incredibly proud of the work The Survivor Arts Community does in supporting the artistic practices of survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. During the pandemic we delivered our first fully virtual project Freehand, which consisted of a series of illustration workshops for survivors that culminated in an online exhibition, alongside illustrations by professional Glasgow-based illustrators. Freehand provided a safe space for survivors to learn new skills, express their creativity, and form a community. WALES RUNNER UP Lost Connections - initially a funded project which developed as an entirely voluntary-run initiative, using creativity to explore connections within the Newport community that were lost during lockdown. Naz Syed of Lost Connections, Wales Runner-up, said: Lost Connections was created by Ziba Creative to connect with the community, and help with isolation and wellbeing. We made 1,000s of art packs, delivered online workshops, doorstep deliveries, a visual time capsule full of people’s stories, art exhibitions in windows and galleries and a doorstep stories podcast, also a beautiful collaborative quilt of friendship with group Coffee ‘N’ Laughs. Creativity can be a spark and a catalyst to spread hope and kindness. CELEBRATING DIVERSITY AWARD RUNNER UP Fallen Angels Dance Theatre - a Chester-based group that supports those in recovery from addiction to transform their lives, and to share their recovery journey with the public through dance, performance and creativity. Claire Morris of Fallen Angels Dance Theatre, runner-up for the Celebrating Diversity Award, said: At Fallen Angels Dance Theatre we are so proud of the work and commitment our community showed during the pandemic through our project we truly did stay ‘Together while ApART’ and are delighted that all the hard work and perseverance is being recognised. We would like to thank all those who voted for us. QUOTES Robin Simpson, Chief Executive of Creative Lives said: The annual Creative Lives Awards are always an inspiring celebration of the ingenuity, determination and passion of volunteer-led creative groups in local communities across the UK and Ireland. This year’s Awards feel particularly humbling, reflecting the incredible way that creative groups responded to the once-in-a-lifetime challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, using their capabilities, resources and networks in extraordinary ways to support those in greatest need within their communities through this difficult period. I am genuinely in awe of these amazing volunteers and their stunning achievements. I applaud them all and urge you to discover their wonderful stories for yourself. Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport of the United Kingdom, said: Culture is the bedrock of local communities, giving people the opportunity to come together and share experiences. I would like to congratulate all the winners and shortlisted groups on their success and I hope you all continue to champion culture, helping to increase access to the arts across the country. Neil Gray MSP, Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, Scottish Government, said: Congratulations to Overdrive Dance Company on winning the Scotland Creative Lives Award for 2021. This group of boys and young men have supported one another through the pandemic, finding creative ways to showcase their skills and to keep dancing together even whilst unable to meet up in person. They are an inspiring example of what can happen when creativity and community come together. I would also like to congratulate the runners up in the Scotland Creative Lives awards, The Survivor Arts Community, and all the other groups shortlisted for the awards. Together they demonstrate the many different ways that people have come together as a community over the past year to nourish their creativity and have fun. Talking about the award winners from Wales, Chief Whip of the Welsh Government and Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden MS said: I am delighted to be able to congratulate the winners at this year’s Creative Lives Awards. These last two years have been a particularly difficult time for our sector and it has had a profound effect on society in general. We have all faced difficult periods away from the people, the places and the activities that give our lives a sense of purpose. This has had a huge impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. I know the focus of the awards this year is on community-based creativity that responded imaginatively to the difficulties of the pandemic and I am pleased to see that this year’s winners, Creative Criccieth, Coffee ‘N’ Laughs, Celf Able and Lost Connections are doing so much good at community level by using the arts to bring people together. They all show the benefits to wellbeing and social connection of taking part in creative activities during a worrying and troubling time. I wish them all the very best for the future. Catherine Martin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media in Ireland, said: I am thrilled to extend my congratulations to the Black Box Projects, based in Belfast, on winning the coveted Creative Lives Ireland Award for 2021. I am aware that the Black Box Projects are for, and by, people living with learning disabilities. The project is supported by a team of dedicated volunteers and the Black Box, which is a diverse culture and arts venue in Belfast. From organising a programme of remote activities during lockdown, to a biodiversity project and more, Black Box Projects are deserved winners. I must also congratulate the Ireland Runner-up and winner of the People’s Choice Award, Drumgoon Hill Old Graveyard community group in Co. Cavan whose Hooley in the House project was delivered as part of Culture Night 2020. Set up 5 years ago in response to the local community wanting to clean and maintain an overgrown site, the same space soon saw several creative projects flourish. I would like to take this opportunity to applaud both groups for these outstanding achievements during such difficult times for local communities. Communities Minister in Northern Ireland, Deirdre Hargey MLA said: I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to this year’s Ireland Award winners Black Box Projects and also to the runners-up and winners of the coveted People's Choice Award, Drumgoon Hill Old Graveyard. These are extremely deserving projects which are reaching out and giving people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities the opportunity to enrich their lives through the arts. I would like to commend the winners and nominees for the tireless work that they do at the heart of our society during what are extremely difficult times for local communities and I thank Creative Lives for ensuring that it is recognised through these awards. The Creative Lives Awards The Creative Lives Awards (formerly the Epic Awards) were set up in 2010 by Creative Lives (formerly Voluntary Arts), an organisation that works across the UK and Ireland to promote, support and champion the voluntary creative cultural activity. The Awards celebrate the achievement of voluntary arts groups across the UK and Ireland, by recognising the skill, innovation and hard work that goes into their activities. The voluntary arts sector is huge, incorporating drama groups, choirs, knitting circles, orchestras, dance troupes, quilters, embroiderers, and much, much more. Over 63,000 voluntary arts groups operate across the UK and Ireland, and their contribution to lives in their local communities cannot be underestimated. The Creative Lives Awards are here to shine a spotlight on their work, and to inspire others to get involved. Discover the winners of the previous Creative Lives Awards editions.