Teenager scoops inaugural prize in annual competition

A young artist has won public acclaim in this year’s Contemporary Arts Festival after bagging the first ever People’s Choice Award. 

Artists from across the North West have gone head-to-head to be crowned the champion in a regional contemporary arts competition.

Entrants submitted their very best works to a panel of experts this summer in the hope of bagging a £1000 prize and their very own solo exhibition next year.

This year’s winner was announced at a glittering event at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery on Thursday (17) evening, with guests from across the region turning out to take a look at this year’s entries.

Also announced was the winner of the inaugural People’s Choice award, 16-year old Joe Malley, who submitted his futuristic piece London 2067 in this year’s contest.

The Bridgewater High School student said: “I’m a bit surprised really, and very happy. The standard of art on display is really so good, so I would never have expected it. My mum and sister both entered the competition, so I decided to enter as well. I was working on this for school but decided I would enter it into this year’s competition instead.”

Joe is hoping to progress his artistic studies as he continues with his education.

He said: “I’m looking at colleges at the moment and mainly looking at ones that have really good art departments.”

The People’s Choice award was introduced in 2019 and consisted of votes collected from visitors to the exhibition over the past two weeks.

This joins the annual Judges’ Choice award, which is selected by a panel of independent experts and representatives from Culture Warrington.

Picking up this prestigious prize was John McLeod, who submitted two pieces Penmaen Returns 1 and Penmaen Returns 2 into this year’s competition.

Mr McLeod, of Warrington, said: “Well, I’m really honoured as a local artist to be among pieces of such high quality. Each year always seems to raise the bar that little bit higher so just to be fitting in is really special.

“I’ve been coming to have a look for about five years or so now and this is the third time I’ve entered. I just think it’s a great opportunity as it’s completely open – anyone can enter.”

Roger Jeffery, producer for Culture Warrington – the charity that runs Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival, Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, Pyramid and Parr Hall – was once again hugely impressed with this year’s entries.

He said: “The 2019 competition has welcomed some really high-quality entries and – as ever – we were really impressed by the overall standard.

“Both John and Joe are very worthy winners who have submitted really fantastic pieces. We’re also always delighted to welcome entries from younger artists, such as Joe, and hope to see even more in the future.”

The event also saw the official launch of Let’s Get Stuck in Traffic! – the debut solo exhibition of last year’s winner Marie Jones.

Delighted to be presenting her very own exhibition, Marie said: “I’m very excited and proud to share my inaugural solo show with everyone! It’s such a great opportunity to exhibit in such a lovely space and to work with the Museum & Art Gallery team who are really open to trying new things.

“Creating this new body of work has allowed me to make connections with different communities in Warrington which, since moving here last year, has been such a wonderful experience.”

Marie has also curated the third exhibition on display at the event, Ride Your Pony No.03.

This fascinating exhibition features the work of 26 artists from around the world, who were each assigned a letter of the alphabet to use as a starting point for their work, while also taking inspiration from the Museum & Art Gallery’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

Thursday’s celebration follows on from two weeks of outstanding events as part of this year’s Contemporary Arts Festival.

Taking centre stage was Luke Jerram’s magnificent Museum of the Moon, which attracted more than 8,500 people to a series of public viewings and associated events, including Warrington’s first ever Light Night.

Over the course of two weeks, families across Warrington flocked to Parr Hall to take part in a range of fantastic events, from silent discos and movie screenings to yoga, gong spas and our very own art battle.

Leah Biddle, cultural manager for Culture Warrington is thrilled at the success of this year’s festival.

She said: “The past two weeks have been absolutely fantastic. Our aim this year was to break down barriers and make art accessible for everyone, so to see people of different ages and backgrounds engaging with our programme has been everything we were hoping for.

“We’ve welcomed such an incredible range of events to Warrington, including some top-quality artists, such as Marie Jones. Marie is a true advocate for local artists and an inspiration for Warrington artists in particular. She has a unique talent and is certainly one to watch for the future.

“I would like to congratulate John and Joe and I look forward to working with them over the coming months.”

Visitors can enjoy the Contemporary Open exhibition and Marie Jones’s Let’s Get Stuck in Traffic until Sunday 10 November, while Ride My Pony No.03  is open until Sunday 22 December. Click here to find out more.