Arts companies producing theatre, music, dance and art across the county have been celebrated in an annual awards ceremony.
The second annual Community and Voluntary Arts Awards, which acknowledge the contribution that community and voluntary arts groups and individuals make to the sense of wellbeing and community cohesion, were presented at an event at Chester Town Hall by Sheriff of Chester Alex Black.
Organised by Cheshire West Voluntary Arts Network, the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts went to Chester composer, musical director and artistic director Matt Baker.
David Woods, chairman of Cheshire West Voluntary Arts Network, said: “I am delighted that we have again had so much interest in our arts awards. We want to celebrate the contribution that community and voluntary arts groups make to the cultural life of our community.
“We know that participation in the arts enriches the quality of life, improves a sense of wellbeing and promotes community cohesion.
“Across West Cheshire hundreds of groups facilitate this activity week in and week out. We want to celebrate that. We are grateful for the support we have received from Cheshire West and Chester Council, De Winter PR, The Earl of Chester’s Fund, Chester CVA and Horseradish at Chester Town Hall.”
The awards, which were presented during National Voluntary Arts Week, were designed by Neil Glendinning, who took his inspiration for the ceramic plates from a visit to the water gardens at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire.
Winner: Dee Sign Choir
Originally formed in 1997, Dee Sign Choir performs in British Sign Language to music. The choir is made up of parents of deaf children, students of BSL, volunteers and members of the local deaf community.
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Community Performing Arts
Winner: Best Days of our Lives
A collaboration between Homegrown Dance Theatre, Theatre in the Quarter and Dee Video, in association with Blacon schools and the Blacon Education Village (BEV), the project told the story of ‘growing up and going to school in Blacon’. The children worked alongside professional artists in the realisation of the piece, which was performed at Chester Cathedral.
Highly commended: Chester City Passion
Children and Young people
Winner: Dance Ground
Cheshire Dance’s Youth Performance Group’s CDYPG and DOPE teamed up with the Cheshire Young Carers following a Cheshire Community Foundation award to create a site-based promenade performance piece at The Lion Salt Works in Northwich using the historical qualities of this newly renovated site, brought to life through movement and theatre. The audience followed the story of what life was like at the Salt Works 200 years ago. Dance Ground was led by Grace Goulding with assistant artist Jack Robinson.
Related story: Cherry Grove pupils to perform Shakespeare in Stratford
Winner: Hip & Harmony
Hip & Harmony CIC was established on February 5, 2013, with the aim of bringing contemporary arts projects to individuals and communities who face isolation. Based in Neston, much of the activity is designed to positively impact on the negative effects of social exclusion. Children and young people take part in street dance and music-making activities and a community choir consists of more than 50 adult members. Hip & Harmony CIC take part in local events including Lights & Lanterns, Big Lunch, Ladies Day and Jazz in the Park.
Outstanding Contribution to Community and Voluntary Arts
Winner: Matt Baker
Musical director of Chester choir A Handbag of Harmonies and artistic director of Theatre in the Quarter, Matt is unrivalled in his ability to enthuse and inspire people to explore their creative potential. He was composer and musical director of the last three cycles of the Chester Mystery Plays, now probably the largest regular community drama project in the UK.
Over the years Matt has worked with thousands of young and adult members of the community.
Highlights of his work include: Across the World at Chester Amphitheatre in 2012, a BBC Music Nation event in advance of the London 2012 Olympics; Over by Christmas in 2014, to coincide with the 100th commemoration of the First World War; Best Days of our Lives at Chester Cathedral. Most recently, Chester City Passion was the success of Matt Baker’s vision, both directed and musically directed by him. This involved more than 200 participants of all ages and an audience of thousands to a single performance in Chester city centre.
View a full gallery of photographs from the event: