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See below for the awards already made through the Exceptional Awards programme.

Exceptional Awards - Awards made so far

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Birmingham Opera Company

Ice Break

Birmingham Opera Company has been awarded a £325,000 Exceptional Award to produce a contemporary production of Michael Tippet’s The Ice Break, which will involve the many diverse communities Birmingham is home to.

Inspired by the powerful story of overcoming differences and divides at the heart of Tippet’s masterpiece, Birmingham Opera Company will create a new, large-scale production of The Ice Break in partnership with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Written and sung in English, this new production will be an opera for our times exploring the gripping and emotional story of inter-racial, inter-generational, political and personal identity.

Supported by the Exceptional Award, Birmingham Opera Company will work with partners across the 10 districts of Birmingham to build a wider cultural programme of events called “Breaking the Ice” to engage local communities, encourage debate and inspire creativity.   

Set to take place in Spring 2015, “Breaking the Ice” will offer one off tasters, surprise performances, no auditions and free training for volunteers to perform in The Ice Break, giving people from across Birmingham the unique opportunity to perform alongside a diverse cast of international soloists, emerging artists and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Punch Records


Supported by an Exceptional Award of £200,000, National Portfolio organisation, Punch Records, is producing a creative international collaboration between some of the world’s most exciting contemporary musicians.

This eighteen-month programme aims to discover and share the worldwide heritage of Black British music through international residencies, online music collaborations and UK wide live performances.

Over the course of an 18 month programme, Birmingham-based music development agency Punch will match four of the UK’s hottest stars with legendary grandmasters of music from around the world.

Each British musician will take a journey back to their own personal roots, mentoring an aspiring young musician in their former school community, and an international journey to the homeland of their cultural heritage, including Jamaica and Nigeria.

Once there they will be paired with a leading international musician, collaborating on bold new work and opening a creative dialogue that will bridge the differences and distances between nations.

The international dimension of HOMELANDS will be balanced by neighbourhood workshop programmes led by each artist and delivered by the Punch team in England. These will culminate in a debut performance of each collaborative piece at a community venue, followed by live performances at national and regional venues.

HOMELANDS will produce four new, tourable, musical works and a unique documentary following each artist on their creative journey through to the performance of their new works.

Bristol Cultural Development Partnership

National portfolio organisation Bristol Cultural Development Partnership (BCDP) has been awarded £744,564 through our Exceptional awards programme to deliver an extraordinary arts programme as part of Bristol 2015 when the city is European Green Capital.

Bristol is the first ever UK city to be named European Green Capital and this award – the largest yet provided through our Exceptional funds – will support six projects in 2015. Each project will attract some of the best artists in all forms from around the world to work with Bristol’s artists.

The funding is the result of a bid created jointly with Bristol 2015 Ltd and will help achieve one of the core aims of Bristol 2015, which is to make sustainable living accessible and easy to understand. The Bristol 2015 arts and culture projects will play a central part in helping people see these complicated topics in a new light.

The five confirmed projects supported through the Exceptional Fund are:

Richard Long 70th Anniversary Solo Exhibition with a new commission by Bristol 2015 and Arnolfini

A large-scale exhibition that celebrates Bristol-based Turner Prize winning artist Richard Long, who has his 70th birthday in 2015. 

Luke Jerram

A special commission for Luke Jerram and the National Trust will see visitors to Leigh Woods in Bristol experience an unexpected encounter with a flotilla of abandoned fishing boats installed in the depths of the woodland.  

The Bristol Blue Whale, led by Herbert Girardet, Kenny Young, Artists Project Earth and Bristol 2015

The creation of a life-size ‘sculpture’ of a Blue Whale presenting the beauty of ocean life, and the growing human threats to it, located in Bristol Harbourside.

The Festival of the Future City, produced by Bristol Festival of Ideas

A year-long programme of work and the largest debate ever about the future of the city, bringing together thinkers, writers, artists, think-tanks, governments and the public.

Theaster Gates Bristol Residency, led by Theaster Gates and produced by Situations

The first major UK project by Theaster Gates, one of the most sought-after American artists of his generation, a charismatic leader and bold visionary.  Gates’ Bristol project begins with a provocative proposition – what might an alternative arena look like for Bristol? 

New Vic Theatre

Behold - A festival of plays inspired by the Staffordshire Hoard

The New Vic Theatre is set to unearth the stories of the Staffordshire Hoard in an ambitious festival supported by £198,000 investment from Arts Council England’s Exceptional Awards programme.

The ground breaking Behold will take over the entire theatre-in-the-round in summer 2015 and will develop new partnerships between theatre and museums.

Historian Michael Wood has been named as a patron of Behold for which emerging and established artists will be commissioned to create up to 21 pieces work, including three new dramas for the main stage inspired by the many stories of the Hoard.

Stories of how the Anglo-Saxon gold ended up in the field in which it was found, the lives it touched, the objects it comprises, the world from which it comes and what it says about life today will be explored with some pieces being works of fact and others of imagination.

The festival will see with three new dramas commissioned for the main-house stage, exhibitions for front of house areas and short pieces to be performed in the theatre’s bar.

The New Vic’s history of verbatim theatre will come to fore in a new documentary exploring the discovery, while the theatre’s Education department and outreach team, Borderlines, will look at topics associated with the Hoard with members of the local community.

Behold was realised after the New Vic was invited to become an Affiliate Company of the National Theatre Studio last year. With the Studio describing itself as offering ‘a chance to dream’, Theresa Heskins developed a vision for a project which would have a unique regional focus combined with national resonance.

With the support of an Arts Council England Exceptional Awards grant the dream became a reality. The New Vic will continue to work with the NT Studio on the project throughout 2014.

Foundation for Community Dance

Big Dance Weekend

The Foundation for Community Dance received an Exceptional Award of £344,780 for the Big Dance Weekend, which took place 12-13 July 2014.

The Big Dance Weekend aimed to be an outstanding programme of specially commissioned dance performances and participation events that animated and positively disrupted public spaces across England.

Commissioned by the Big Dance Hubs across England with the Foundation For Community Dance, these large-scale events were created by professional choreographers and dance artists working with communities to provide opportunities for people to take part, watch spectacular dance up close and see unusual and iconic locations transformed by dance.

The Big Dance Weekend was a highlight and the finale of the Big Dance Week 2014.

Big Dance Weekend events included:

  • We are the City - a moving installation and tapestry of Liverpool life presented In Liverpool by MDI. Created by choreographer Willi Dorner, this dance installation took place through the streets of Anfield culminating in Stanley Park
  • Bodies on the Beach - a journey of 200 moving and dancing bodies in the striking landscape of Bridlington beach created by Susanne Thomas presented by Yorkshire Dance
  • Live Bolero - in Nottingham’s Market Square and at the Corby Highland Gathering, Dance4 offer a Torvill and Dean inspired mass performance created by Jeanefer Jean-Charles 
  • Through and Out: Skipping Extravaganza - a cross-over of dance and rope skipping devised by Jorge Crecis with an immersive audio soundtrack presented by Greenwich Dance. Over 500 dance-skippers untied in electrifying motion in Greenwich Park within the UNESCO World Heritage Site


Disaster Playground by Nelly Ben Hayoun

Through its commissioning and artist development programme, Near Now, Broadway has received a £200,000 Exceptional Award to support the production of Nelly Ben Hayoun’s new project, Disaster Playground.

Disaster Playground is a creative platform investigating the design of emergency procedures in the space programme, with world-renowned space experts at NASA, the SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) Institute and an all-star team of composers, writers and international collaborators.

With a cutting-edge approach and through re-enactment of high alert situations by teams of space experts at NASA and the SETI Institute, Ben Hayoun will question what the space programme could be if members of the public were to share its human condition – the dilemmas faced by scientists over discovery and decision-making under pressure.

The project will result in an evolving platform of live events and experiences featuring films shot on location at NASA Headquarters, SETI, and Disaster and Emergency Response training facilities across the USA.

Award-winning experience designer and director Nelly Ben Hayoun is known as “the Willy Wonka of art and science”. Her bold practice has brought her to investigate the Large Hadron Collider and the empty lands of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Disaster Playground follows on from her research with the hugely successful International Space Orchestra, under Ben Hayoun’s directorship, at NASA Ames Research Center.

Near Now previously welcomed Ben Hayoun at Broadway in 2013, as part of its monthly talks series, to discuss her work founding the International Space Orchestra. 

Modern Art Oxford

Love is Enough - Jeremy Deller

A major exhibition at Modern Art Oxford, curated by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, brings together rarely seen works by William Morris and Andy Warhol. Love is Enough will be presented at Modern Art Oxford opening on 6 December 2014.

Love is Enough will examine the prolific careers of these two figures, each of whom developed an artistic practice and a conceptual framework that helped to define the centuries in which they lived.

The exhibition draws together works from public and private collections across the UK and the USA. They include the epic and rarely seen Holy Grail tapestries completed by Morris in 1896, a selection of Warhol’s iconic silkscreens and archival material from the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, including a signed photograph of Shirley Temple posted to a thirteen-year old Andy from the actress in 1941.  

Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Originally, ‘World Stages London’ was a consortium of theatres based in the capital in 2012, collaborating with international partners to create original shows in a celebration of the cultural complexity of London.

Now, Birmingham Repertory Theatre is co-producing with the Young Vic in London and HOME in Manchester in association with Lucy Guerin Inc. in Melbourne, Australia to create a new World Stages format that will create ambitious new collaborations and co-productions between theatres in major UK cities and international partners.

Supported by an Exceptional Award of £300,000, the first ambitious production they commission, produce and tour will be a new theatre/dance version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, created and co-directed by British director Carrie Cracknell and Australian choreographer Lucy Guerin.

Macbeth will be a show that crosses and combines art forms in a ground-breaking way. It will begin with Shakespeare’s original text. Then, as Macbeth’s world falls apart and unravels, the form of the piece will gradually break up with the verse giving way to muscular, visceral dance.

The REP's Learning and Participation team will also work with the Young Vic and HOME to create educational activities and related learning resource packs, in both digital and printed forms, maximising the production's appeal and value to schools and their students.


Ex Cathedra

Shakespeare Odes

In 1769, the actor and impresario David Garrick organised a Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford-upon-Avon. It began with a cannon firing at dawn. Young men sang under the windows of their sweethearts. There were country dances and horse-races. But the highlight was Garrick’s own specially written Shakespeare Ode with music by Thomas Arne (Rule Britannia).

To mark Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary in April 2016, and supported by a £145,000 Exceptional Award, National Portfolio organisation, Ex Cathedra, will tour a staged, period-instrument performance of the Garrick Ode, in partnership with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Shakespeare Institute and in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

There was also be a new Ode written by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and composed by Sally Beamish for Ex Cathedra, children’s choir and a ‘broken consort’ of instruments that Shakespeare would recognise.




More information to follow shortly

The Stables

Rosemary Lee's 'Under The Vaulted Sky'

IF: Milton Keynes International Festival

The Stables was selected to receive an Exceptional Award of £215,000 from Arts Council England for Under the Vaulted Sky - an ambitious dance project commissioned from choreographer Rosemary Lee for IF: Milton Keynes International Festival.

Award-winning choreographer Rosemary Lee has been inspired by Milton Keynes’ magical Cathedral of Trees in the city’s Campbell Park to create Under The Vaulted Sky. The performances, which took place in July 2014, are the culmination of a year-long residency that saw Rosemary work with professional and non-professional dancers from across the region.

Situated on an ancient ley line that runs through Central Milton Keynes, The Cathedral of Trees was planted more than 40 years ago on the exact footprint of Norwich Cathedral by landscape architect Neil Higson. Different species of trees represent the character of the Cathedral's sections - hornbeam and tall-growing lime for the nave, evergreens to represent the central tower and spires, flowering cherry and apple as a focus in the chapels. In springtime, colourful bulbs represent the sun shining through stained glass windows onto the ground.

Rosemary’s vision for Under The Vaulted Sky featured the participation of 100 dancers and live music and a specially-composed soundscape commissioned from award-winning composer and instrument maker Terry Mann. The audience were invited to ‘promenade’ - to move and follow the performance as it weaved around the atmospheric environment of the Cathedral. 

As part of the legacy of Under The Vaulted Sky, Rosemary has created a film to be installed in other cathedrals in the UK and around the world.

Under The Vaulted Sky is also supported by Milton Keynes CouncilThe Parks Trust and South East Dance, and sponsored by the University of Bedfordshire. It premiered over the first weekend of the 10-day International Festival that also featured music, comedy, contemporary circus and cabaret in a beautiful Belgian Spiegeltent; a spectacular fire and water event on Willen Lake; and a festival for children.

IF: Milton Keynes International Festival ran across various locations and venues in Central Milton Keynes from 18 to 27 July 2014.

University of Lincoln

Supported by an Exceptional Award of £395,622, the University of Lincoln will harness the universal language of art to create a new digital platform for young people called

The project was inspired by the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta on 15 June 1215, owned by Lincoln Cathedral and displayed at Lincoln Castle together with its sister charter The Charter of the Forest. 

At the heart of this exceptional project is the belief that every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities.

The platform will be created by Cultureshock Media. This online house of culture will commission and curate content which gives people aged 14-24 yrs the chance to discover, experience and think about questions linked to humanitarian ideals. Through engaging with young people will connect internationally, across borders, religion and race  to give voice to their values. will put young people at its heart in shaping, commissioning, curating and creating content, online and in live events in Lincoln and beyond. Artists’ films, animation, music, written and spoken word, will be featured on the site alongside the work of young people and learning resources. Live events will form an important part of the project in providing participatory opportunities and the chance to link with other events inspired by the universal theme of liberty, including the upcoming Frequency Festival.

On 6 November 2017, 800 years from the issue of The Charter of the Forest a specially commissioned artwork will communicate the needs of this new generation in a new charter to institutions of power all over the world.