The Epic Awards 2016 winners were announced at Cardiff Castle on Saturday 2 April. The ceremony crowned not only the winners and runner ups for each nation (Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England) but also winners of the Peer Award for Excellence, the People’s Choice Award, and the Awards for exceptional work with young people and people with disabilities – both sponsored by the Spirit of 2012.

The event at Cardiff Castle was hosted by BBC Radio Wales Arts Show’s Nicola Heywood Thomas. The 2016 Winners received a range of prizes, including mentoring, memberships, cash prizes – and the Epic awards themselves.

The Epic Awards, now in their sixth 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 with support from Spirit of 2012. Many of the 60,000 voluntary arts groups eligible in the UK and ROI have put themselves forward for the Awards. The judging panels in each of the nations selected 8 groups from Ireland, 6 from Wales, 8 from Scotland and 9 from England to be awarded shortlist status.

The full list of Epic Awards winners and runners-up for 2016 are:

Epic Awards 2016 Winners:

Pimp My Uke: Pimp My Uke is a venture between Men’s Sheds Cymru and Age Cymru that successfully engaged older men in the arts. Men’s Sheds across Wales were given kits to make their own ukuleles and provided with musical tuition to learn to play their ‘pimped’ instruments. 150 members from Sheds all across Wales came together to perform in St David’s Hall, Cardiff, as part of the Gwanwyn Festival which celebrates creativity in older age.

alter:nativity: The project evolved around ninety performers from four rural villages in Aberdeenshire (Birse, Ballogie, Finzean and Strachan) who came together to stage a modern day nativity. The performers were ranging in age from 4 months to late sixties, the troupe also included two sheep and a donkey. Inspired by recent events in Syria, the show paralleled the traditional nativity story, likening Joseph and Mary to today’s refugees fleeing their homeland in search of a safe haven.

GO! (Great Opportunities) Together: The GO! project aims to renovate the derelict Palace Theatre in Plymouth and bring it back into use as a cultural venue for the city. A huge team of at least 330 volunteers came together to find ways to fundraise for this £15m capital project and soon created both a 140-strong chorus and 70-piece orchestra which have already raised over £7,000 for the project.

Hermit Collective: The Hermit Collective is a poetry, music, art, craft and puppet ensemble which started in protest of the killing off of rural Ireland. Frustrated with a lack of support for artists in their towns – both amateur and professional alike – the collective formed with the intention of uniting and supporting the local arts scene and to bring the arts out to the audience, not just keeping it inside galleries, or in distant cities. The Collective is currently spread across five counties: Roscommon, Sligo, Mayo, Leitrim and Donegal.

People’s Choice Award (chosen by public in an online vote)
Strike a Chord, Wales: Strike a Chord is a project that helps stroke survivors towards recovery by singing and participating in a choir. Research shows that singing helps patients recover both physically and psychologically from medical conditions. There are 1.2 million stroke survivors across the UK and 1 in 3 are left with aphasia post-stroke. Singing aids them to communicate more clearly, regain control over muscles and ease their frustrations.

Epic Award for Exceptional Work with Young People (sponsored by Spirit of 2012)
Movema, England: Movema helped build young people’s understanding of different cultures and communities through dance projects around Liverpool. Their “Unlock The Box” project was initiated by Movema as a way to reach out to young people affected by a number of issues including cultural integration, poor health on economic problems.

Epic Award for Exceptional Work with People with Disabilities (sponsored by Spirit of 2012)
Spectrum Centre, Northern Ireland: The Social Sofa project, led by Belfast-based Spectrum Centre, invited the tenants of Hemsworth Court (a supported accommodation facility for people living with dementia) to design and apply thousands of mosaic tiles to a 1750 kg concrete sofa. This creative project took place over a ten-month period and the sofa was the focal point for significant community engagement, intergenerational collaboration, and volunteering opportunities.

Peer Award for Excellence (chosen by the 31 Epic Awards 2016 shortlisted groups)
Guthan An Iar, Scotland: Guthan an Iar was set up by world-renowned Gaelic singer Gillebride MacMillan, with a view to keeping the oral song traditions of Uist alive. The group is made up of local Gaels from the Uist community, who bring song-poems, many of which are in danger of dying out, to the wider public through performances at ceilidhs and concerts.

Epic Awards 2016 winners at Cardiff Castle

Epic Awards 2016 Runners-Up

Black History Month Wales: A project to celebrate many of the bold, brave and successful black women throughout history. Its 2015 theme was ‘Great Black Women Past & Present’. The main aim of Black History Month Wales is to facilitate a national programme of events and activities to raise awareness of the positive contributions of the African Diaspora to local, national and international society. In total across Black History Month Wales, 130 events took place, in collaboration with 18 partners. Over 12,000 people are anticipated to have taken part in the activities.

Ireland (and People’s Choice Runner-Up)
Dublin Ukulele Collective, Republic of Ireland: DUC is an all-inclusive group of 3 separate ukulele bands meeting in Dublin every week, open to new members regardless of their abilities and age. With a concert at Ireland’s largest rock festival Electric Picnic under their belts, the group has recently taken RTE One’s Ray D’Arcy Show by storm with their electric performance of Erasure’s A Little Respect.

Kilmarnock Railway Station Heritage Trust: A group of volunteers came together in 2014 to give the disused rooms at Kilmarnock Railway Station a facelift. Funding was secured and work began to turn the platform spaces into a hub of cultural, historical and educational activity. Their aim was not only to preserve the history of the Station itself, but to create a space for the local community – turning the building once again into the heart of the town.

Harps North West: Cumbria-based Harps North West promote playing, teaching and appreciation of the harp. Their project ‘Newvember’, launched in November 2015, saw them collaborating with Scottish composer Karen Marshalsay on a series of tutorial videos to help participants learn a new piece of music on harp. Soon there was a group of harpists joining in on the challenge from across the UK as well as Australia, the United States and Bavaria. The videos were designed to allow people of different abilities to join in and learn at their own pace but with the support of a community built around the challenge.