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National arts awards triumphs for Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough Mayor Dave Budd has been honoured for his “commitment, passion and tireless work for the arts”.

Mayor Budd received one of two awards given to Middlesbrough Council in the National Campaign for the Arts' (NCA) Hearts For The Arts Awards 2019 – meaning Middlesbrough received half of the awards’ four honours.

The second award was given for Erimus dance spectacular which was part of a series of events to celebrate the re-opened Middlesbrough Town Hall following its near £8m restoration.

Erimus was choreographed by Southpaw Dance Company and was performed by professionals working with volunteers from the town who subsequently spoke of the “life-changing” physical and mental health benefits.

At the Hearts for the Arts Awards Erimus won Best Local Authority Arts Project Encouraging Community Cohesion.

Meanwhile Mayor Budd won the Best Local Authority Arts Champion – Councillor category.

One of the judges, the comedian and actor and former Family Fortunes host Les Dennis, said: “His commitment, passion and tireless work for the Arts is clear in the citation and the work he has done. Erimus sounds phenomenal and I love that he is campaigning for Tees Valley to compete for City of Culture. I wish him great success. Congratulations.”

Fellow judge Kwame Kwei-Armah said of Erimus: “This sounds amazing. I wanted to be there. It’s a poster child for all we in the arts believe in.”

The awards celebrate the unsung heroes of Local Authorities who are championing the arts, often within a climate of severe financial challenges.

Mr Budd said: “The importance of culture cannot be underestimated and that is why we recently launched Middlesbrough Council’s Cultural Strategy. Culture can improve people’s lives in almost limitless ways and so we are very proud to be recognised for our efforts in Middlesbrough.”

Charlotte Nicol, Middlesbrough Council’s Head of Culture, said: “This is fantastic recognition for the community of Middlesbrough who worked incredibly hard with the amazing Southpaw Dance Company to create something that truly celebrated the People’s Town Hall.”

Nominations were received for four award categories: Best Local Authority Arts Initiative, Best Local Authority Arts Project Encouraging Community Cohesion, Best Local Authority Arts Champion – Councillor, and Best Local Authority Arts Champion – Officer.

The winners were chosen by a panel of key arts industry experts and practitioners, including:

  • Samira Ahmed: journalist, writer and broadcaster
  • Les Dennis: actor, comedian, television presenter and NCA Champion
  • Jude Kelly: producer, director, founder of Women of the World Festivals and The WOW Foundation, ex-Artistic Director of The Southbank Centre
  • Kwame Kwei-Armah: playwright, director, Artistic Director of the Young Vic Theatre
  • Lorna Lee: Head of Culture & Heritage Services, London Borough of Waltham Forest, and Winner of the 2018 Hearts for the Arts Awards for Best Local Authority Arts Champion – Officer
  • Samuel West: actor, director and Chair of the National Campaign for the Arts