NOMINATIONS had been made, shortlists had been hammered out and all that was left to do was reveal the worthy winners of The Journal Culture Awards 2011.
So if you were wondering what the culturally-infused commotion was down at the Gala Theatre in Durham last night… wonder no more.
It was the sixth such ceremony which annually draws the cream of the region’s arts and entertainment community to celebrate North East talent and enjoy a programme of performances straight out of the top drawer.
Fifteen Culture Awards were presented, this year taking the form of limited edition prints by Durham-based artist Anja Percival.
The categories included best Visual Artist, Newcomer, Writer, Performing Artist and Performance.
The award for a special contribution to North East arts and culture was presented to Max Roberts, artistic director of Live Theatre and the director of current hit plays The Pitmen Painters and A Walk On Part.
There were also awards for the region’s best events. The Turner Prize at Baltic was judged the best North East event of the year and it also won the Arts Council Award.
There was an award for the Best Arts and Business Partnership while the Renaissance Museum Award recognised excellence in the North East museums sector.
All the winners and finalists are included in this supplement which is a reminder of the North East’s lively and varied cultural scene.
Brian Aitken, editor of The Journal, said that although there were winners, there were no losers.
“Given the standard of events we have in this region and the calibre of artists and artistes, making it to the final three is an achievement in itself,” he told last night’s audience.
He also offered a measure of the appetite for arts and cultural activities in the North East as revealed by a marketing campaign called Open More Doors.
It had driven up membership of The Journal Culture Club, which now stands at around 1,300 people who benefit from special offers and money-can’t-buy cultural experiences.
Related research, based on 715 returned questionnaires, showed that 93% of Culture Club members planned to renew their subscriptions.
It also revealed a high level of satisfaction with the Culture magazine, published monthly with The Journal.
Ably presenting last night’s event for the second year running was effervescent performance poet, stand-up comic and Journal columnist Kate Fox.
Also entertaining the audience were the all-female four-piece group The Cornshed Sisters whose new album, Tell Tales, is to be launched on Friday at the Central Bar in Gateshead and whose photo graces the cover of this month’s Culture magazine.
They treated the assembled masses to a couple of numbers, debut single Dance at my Wedding and Tommy.
Next up was clog dancer extraordinaire Laura Connolly who showed everyone just why she had been a finalist in the category of Performing Artist of the Year.
Meanwhile North East music collective Sharks Took The Rest made a welcome return to the event, bringing the evening to a magical close.
The band, led by songstress Beccy Owen, made their live debut at the Culture Awards three years ago.
Since then, the seven-piece group have released an EP, clocked up a list of prestigious performances (including Glastonbury) and are poised to release their debut album, Too Late For Logic, later in the year.
They also have a gig on Friday night, this time at The Sage Gateshead with support from Matt Stalker & Fables.
We’ll be opening the doors for nominations for The Journal Culture Awards 2012 in the not too distant future, and before you know it we’ll be gathering to bestow the well-deserved bouquets once again.