Hearts For The Arts 2021 Winners: Recognising UK’s unsung local authority arts heroes


The winners have been announced for the annual National Campaign for the Arts’ (NCA) Hearts for the Arts Awards 2021. The awards celebrate the unsung heroes of Local Authorities who are championing the arts against all odds.

Nominations were received from across the UK for each of the three award categories. Despite the incredible hardships faced by Local Authorities in 2020, this year’s awards have seen the NCA receive a record-breaking number of nominations, as local communities turned to the arts for solace, strength and connectivity during the pandemic.

So many strong nominations were received in the Best Arts Category, that three winners have been chosen:

And the winners are:

Best Arts Project: N17 (Haringey Council). A radio programme created in partnership by students of Harris Academy Tottenham, Kick it Out, Threads Radio, Haringey Council, RoughHouse Theatre and playwright, Dougie Blaxland.

Best Arts Project: Create & Learn PlayKits (London Borough of Wandsworth Arts Service). Wandsworth creative organisations worked together with Wandsworth Council to make and distribute over 3000 kits of creative materials and activities to children aged 6-10 years old in most need.

Best Arts Project: Arts E-Live (Mole Valley District Council). A community arts festival of over 50 events in the fields of music, theatre, poetry, creative writing, children’s events, street art, craft, filmmaking and dance.

Best Arts Champion – Local Authority or Cultural Trust Worker: Andy Dawson (Inspire Youth Arts). In his role as Service Manager, Andy has strategically planned and secured funds to deliver fantastic creative journeys for young people across Nottinghamshire.

Best Arts Champion – Councillor: Councillor Janet Emsley (Rochdale Borough Council) for her consistent and energetic support of the arts in Rochdale.

The judging panel was as follows:

Le Gateau Chocolat, drag artiste and cabaret performer

Helen Czerski, physicist, oceanographer, television presenter

Mariella Frostrup, journalist and Broadcaster

Paul Hartnoll, musician, composer, founder member of Orbital

Adrian Lester CBE, actor and director

Francesca Martinez, comedian, writer, actress

Petra Roberts, Cultural Development Manager, Hackney Council (2020 winners for the Windrush Generations Festival)

Samuel West, actor, director, Chair of the National Campaign for the Arts

Samuel West, actor, director and Chair of the National Campaign for the Arts, said:

“In a world that badly needs good news, we can now cheer our 2021 Hearts for the Arts winners to the skies.

Surrounded by loss, separation and loneliness, these people, these projects show the joy and comfort councils and trusts can bring when they put art and creativity at the centre of community life.

I can’t put it better than one of our judges, the cabaret artiste Le Gateau Chocolat:

“It was absolutely rewarding knowing that these sorts of people walk amongst us in the arts. I’m incredibly humbled by their efforts and contributions to their communities.”

Picking winners this year was really difficult – the challenges of COVID mean any creative effort deserves to be rewarded and will have brought solace in big and small ways. But our winners have particularly proved the use and importance of art to people’s lives, and we hope will continue to do so. These sorts of projects must not be allowed to die.

The Hearts for the Arts awards are our way of saying thank you, and please keep going – you’re needed now more than ever!”

Continuing this, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said:

“Congratulations to all the winners of these awards, and those who were shortlisted.

“After such a difficult year, it’s fantastic to see councils continue to use innovative ways to bring communities together, tackle isolation, support educational outcomes and enrich the lives of their residents when they needed it most.

“Despite severe budget challenges, councils are one of the biggest national public investors in culture, spending over £1bn each year and it is enormously inspiring to hear these stories of success and perseverance in championing the arts.”

The LGA’s Hearts for the Arts Awards ceremony takes place virtually from 3-4pm on Wednesday 3 March. Spaces are limited, so book your place now.

The National Campaign for the Arts presents the Hearts for The Arts Awards each year. The awards are delivered by the NCA in partnership with Culture Counts; the Local Government Association; Thrive; UK Theatre, Voluntary Arts Wales, Wales Council for Voluntary Action.

For more information on the shortlisted nominees visit:https://forthearts.org.uk/hearts-for-the-arts-2021-shortlist-announced/.

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