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Awards season: culture professionals across the region recognised

  • Date: 27 February 2012
  • Area: South East
Young man with grey hair at event open mouthed in animated conversion

Hugh Hughes meets his audience. Credit: Jaimie Gramston

Forget the BAFTAs and the Brits - it has been awards season in the East of England over the last couple of months with some of our finest culture professionals picking up gongs.

First up was the Queen's New Year's Honours list, which included among others: Luton Culture's Maggie Appleton, who was awarded an OBE for services to museums and heritage; Charles Rawlinson, a Britten Sinfonia board member, who was awarded an OBE for charitable services to young people and to music; and Christopher Heaton, Head of Policy, Planning and Culture, Libraries Learning and Culture at Cambridgeshire County Council, who was given an OBE for services to Libraries. Congratulations to them all.

There was also a major coup for Arts Council funded organisation Hoipolloi, whose character, emerging Welsh artist Hugh Hughes' radio version of Floating won Best Scripted Comedy Drama at the BBC Audio Drama Awards.

In reaction to the award, Hugh said: 'It's a real honour to receive this award. We've had so much fun over the last six years sharing this story with you, our audience. It's a pleasure to have our efforts recognised in this way. And I know that my Nain [sic], who was a major inspiration for making the piece, would be very proud.'

Another award last month recognised the hard work that goes on behind the scenes on our Escalator East to Edinburgh performing arts programme to ensure artists are given the best possible opportunities to showcase their work at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The programme is part of Escalator, the Arts Council's talent development initiative for the East of England, aimed at taking artists to the next level of their careers and enabling them to take time to explore new creative territories. As well as financial support through lottery-funded Grants for the arts, participants get help with PR, marketing, show promotion and networking.

This year, our congratulations must go to communications professional Steve Forster, who has won the Fringe Report Award for Best Theatre PR. The award is for his invaluable work as publicist for each new cohort of artists on the Arts Council's East to Edinburgh programme, and his efforts to support them in the run up and during the festival.

We caught up with Steve after winning the award to discuss what it meant to win and to find out more about what his work involves.

He said: 'It's always nice to win something and gain recognition but when it's awarded by an industry organisation for year round work all over the UK it does feel rather special. Escalator East to Edinburgh gives people performing at Edinburgh a huge advantage.'

2012 is the 10th year of the initiative and Steve explained that in the time since its inception it has firmly established itself as a strong brand to audiences, critics and promoters alike, many of whom actively seek out the Escalator shows.

'The diversity of the shows is a great strength, almost all artforms have been represented and there is a crucial mix of experienced companies and individuals and those performing in Edinburgh for the first time. This gives invaluable peer support and a great well of advice and knowledge to the less experienced while the enthusiasm of those first timers can also be a spur and inspiration to the older hands.'

And what does he most enjoy about the job?

He said: 'I really enjoy the chaotic, full on, all enveloping atmosphere that is Edinburgh in August - I wouldn't be able to do the job otherwise! Also, working with a great team of people, some brilliant performers and meeting my festival friends that I may only see every August but see almost every day during the month. One of the most satisfying things is when one of our shows arrives at the Fringe as a totally unknown quantity and leaves the city at the end of the month as a big hit. I've also established strong friendships with some people I've worked with through the Escalator programme, including people I probably wouldn't have met otherwise.'

To find out more about all strands of Escalator you can read the brochure on our website.