Arts festival reveals winners of 2020 Open Competition

Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival has returned for its 10th annual exhibition with a fresh new face and an inspiring collection of multi-discipline works, thanks to a brand new set of rules. 

From film and dance to sculpture and photography, this year’s competition opened the door to submissions from across all art forms for the first time ever.

As a result, the 2020 exhibition is a vibrant cocktail of works, with three remarkable winners reflecting the diversity of this year’s exhibition.

Collecting the £1,000 cash prize is Tara Collette, a textiles-based artist from Salford.

Tara’s three submissions took inspiration from high street stores Greggs, Tesco and McDonalds, demonstrating a sense of familiarity and comfort during a turbulent 2020.

She explained: “Greggs was my first ever job when I turned 16 and I stayed there for four years, so it felt nostalgic in a way.

“The second banner was Big Tesco, which was made in collaboration with Manchester illustrator David Bailey. I really loved David’s work and I approached him in March during the lockdown with the idea of collaborating and this is what we made [in lockdown] over emails.

“The final banner I submitted was Unhappy Meal, which I made in June of this year.”

Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival’s solo exhibition prize was awarded to Hope Strickland, whose gripping film Home Soon Come explores diasporic movements of the Caribbean community in Manchester and what it means to find ourselves “at home”.

Hope, whose academic experience centres around visual anthropology, uses her work to explore feminist film practices and black agency through audio visual media.

She said: “Home Soon Come is a really personal project for me which has been ongoing with the Caribbean community in South Manchester.

“It’s an experimental documentary that weaves together footage shots in a day centre for the Caribbean elderly, interviews that I’ve recorded with family members and archive footage from a 1926 travel log around the Caribbean.

“It’s really there to explore what it means to find ourselves at home with the people around us.”

Hope’s submission bagged her £1,000 in fees towards a solo exhibition at the 2021 Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival, a project that will hopefully see this powerful piece developed in an exciting new way.

She explained: “I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with the prize and the opportunity but I’ve been thinking about extending Home Soon Come out into installation format. Usually my work is shown at screenings or film festivals so it would be interesting to have the space and opportunity to try something new. I have a lot of footage so that would be fun!”

Last but not least is an imaginative piece exploring young people’s relationship with the digital world.

Shaped by the voices and minds of young people - and aimed at young people and their families - Neverland by dance artist Lauren Tucker is a live performance experience that lives on social media.

By using augmented reality effects, live feeds and real time voting to influence the outcomes of the show and visual projections, this unique fusion of traditional performance and digital media paves the way to a bold new future of entertainment.

Lauren said: “I set out to create Neverland, which is a performance experience shaped by the voices, minds and imagination of young people.

“It’s an investigation of what it is to grow up online, so I used it as a creative metaphor to cross-reference parts of the Peter Pan story and make it relevant to today’s digital world.”

Picking up this year’s final prize - a residency at Pyramid Arts Centre - Lauren is now hoping to develop the project further with help from Culture Warrington staff.

She said: “Neverland was an amazing creative process so now I would like to build upon all of the learning from Neverland and work with Pyramid as a cultural venue to co-create a shared digital experience that is made with, by, and for young people.

“I’m just really excited to develop place-based activity with a cultural venue and to see where this process takes us.”

With almost 450 submissions across all art forms, this year’s competition has been the most eclectic and engaging yet, with imaginative works opening the door to new opportunities for Culture Warrington to explore in its 2021 programme.

Leah Biddle, Culture Manager of Culture Warrington, said: “The quality of this year’s submissions have been truly outstanding and it’s been a real joy to welcome such a variety of content to the 2020 competition.

“I’d also like to say a huge congratulations to our three winners Tara, Hope and Lauren.

“2020 has been a year that will live in people’s memories for years to come for a whole number of different reasons and I feel all three of our winners have managed to capture some aspect of modern-life and the issues facing people today in a raw, powerful and imaginative way.

“We’re so excited to reveal this game-changing exhibition and begin work on follow-up projects very soon!”

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