WITH Arts Council England’s announcement about future funding plans due tomorrow morning, many of those who attended the fifth annual Journal Culture Awards will have had other things on their mind over the last few days and weeks.
Brian Aitken, Editor of The Journal, alluded to this in his introduction last night, saying: “There’s no doubt that the economic climate is considerably colder today than it was a year ago – and it wasn’t warm then.
“Everyone is facing tough times and I dare say that there is a considerable number of people in this room who are waiting apprehensively on news of their arts funding.
“But this is one region where we can say with certainty that culture has played a major part in its regeneration – and, collectively, we have the intelligence, the imagination, the creativity and the resilience to carry on with that.
“If we can’t do things in the same way, then we’ll just have to do them differently.”
But he added that while no one could pretend that talk of budget and funding cuts wasn’t happening, last night was all about celebrating talent and achievement.
Specifically, it was a celebration of the achievements of 2010 when, as the judges would tell you, lots of memorable and innovative things happened throughout the region.
The winners, naturally, were cheered heartily at the Gala Theatre in Durham but all those shortlisted also had reason to feel proud.
Some of the award categories were more hotly contested than ever, resulting in some spirited debate before the winners were decided upon.
In particular, there were some excellent events last year which made those categories particularly challenging to judge.
But the achievement of Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in mounting the spectacular text-based exhibition by American artist Jenny Holzer eventually won the award for best overall event.
The audience was treated to some first-class musical entertainment last night.
Lesley Roley, a finalist in the Newcomer of the Year category, is a singer of great promise who has already supported some big names and brought out a couple of well-received EPs.
Last night she demonstrated why she is one to watch.
Sunderland band The Futureheads now require no formal introduction, having carved out a national reputation as a great live act.
Then there were Winter North Atlantic, creation of innovative musician Ed Carter, and the Pittington Brass Band, who recreated some of the sounds which helped to make Durham’s international brass festival go with a swing in 2010.
It gave the audience a chance to see why Brass: Durham International Festival is gaining a national and international reputation and was deemed the best event in County Durham last year.
Last night’s event was in good hands.
At last year’s event, also at the Gala Theatre, performance poet Kate Fox read a poem including all the shortlisted contenders. Last night she proved a witty and accomplished MC.