Embargoed until 21 May, 20:00
2015 Epic Award winners announced
Voluntary arts achievement awarded at inspirational ceremony
A Liverpool community group that transformed an old flyover, a volunteer-run Scottish
arts trail that attracts visitors from far and wide, a Welsh performance space for people
affected by mental illness, and a Dublin storytelling group with a difference have all had
their achievements recognised at this year’s Epic Awards.
An inspirational reception, hosted by BBC Outreach at MediaCityUK in Salford and funded by
Spirit of 2012, saw voluntary arts groups from across the UK and Ireland converge to share their
Epic Awards is an annual initiative run by Voluntary Arts. The awards shine a spotlight on
excellence and achievement in the voluntary and amateur arts, and champion creative cultural
The 2015 winners and runners-up are as follows (NB all group names are hyperlinked to more
Epic Awards 2015 England Winner – Friends of the Flyover
Rather than see millions wasted on tearing down an ugly, under-used flyover, this
innovative group is turning it into a cultural space for everyone to enjoy.
Epic Awards 2015 Ireland Winner – Milk and Cookies
Dublin-based storytelling group, open to all, which meets monthly to share stories both
traditional and modern, accompanied by a fun ‘bake-off’.
Epic Awards 2015 Scotland Winner – Kirkcudbright Art and Crafts Trail
A volunteer-led arts trail, which has grown to include over 100 venues filled with work
created by over 200 participants – attracting audiences from far and wide.
Epic Awards 2015 Wales Winner – MaDCaff
A pressure-free performance platform in West Wales for musicians and dancers who
have been affected by mental illness to share experiences and get creative.
England – Cordwainers Garden
A community garden in Hackney, London whose ‘grow a garment’ project saw people
create fabric from seed to finished product.
Ireland – Free Wee Library Project
A trail of little outdoor libraries in Donegal, reminiscent of bird boxes, filled with books
which readers can borrow and replace with others.
Scotland – DD8 Music
Music group run by volunteers in Kirriemuir, which provides free lessons, jams and
recording equipment for young people.
Wales – Photomarathon
Annual, volunteer-led photography event, during which participants take twelve photos on
twelve different topics in twelve hours.
Epic Award for exceptional work with disabled people
Kent Association for the Blind Medway Art Group - Creative group for people with
sight impairments that produced a spray-paint graffiti exhibition based at Rochester
Epic Award for exceptional work with young people
DD8 Music - Music group run by volunteers in Kirriemuir, which provides free lessons,
jams and recording equipment for young people, and includes them on their board.
People’s Choice Award (voted for by the public)
Knitted Knockers UK - Group of knitters and crocheters coordinating activity online to
handmake prostheses for women who have had mastectomies or lumpectomies.
Peer Award for Excellence (voted for by the shortlisted groups). Joint winners.
Wee Free Library Project - Project in County Donegal that creates trails of outdoor
wooden libraries stocked with donated books.
Crafty Corner – Cross-community craft project in Derry-Londonderry to help unite
people from divided communities
The winning groups received their Epic Awards at a reception at MediaCityUK compered by
BBC Radio 4 presenter Sheila McClennon, who had this to say about her involvement:
“I’m delighted to be involved with the Epic Awards this year. The arts are such a vital part of our
lives – now more than ever and this is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the creativity and
hard work of practitioners from all corners of the UK and Ireland. The shortlisted groups are all
amazing. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best - storytelling with cake, transforming an
unloved corner of the landscape or giving young people access to music making. But done with
energy, imagination, love and not a lot of fanfare - these people have made a real difference to
their communities.”
Culture Ministers from all five Governments across the UK and Ireland were full of praise
for the groups:
England: “Many congratulations to Friends of the Flyover for winning the Epic Award 2015.
They can, and should, be very proud indeed for what they have achieved in such a short
amount of time. Flyover Fest is a fantastic example of local people working together creatively
and with innovation to transform their community through the power of arts and culture. I have
seen this happen with other projects in all parts of the country, and it is inspiring to see the
effect that taking part in creative cultural activity can have on the lives of people, and the
strength and identity of their community.
“I am proud to have supported Epic Awards since the first winners' reception in 2011 and I have
the greatest respect for all the winners, runners-up and shortlisted groups. They show the
positive difference that voluntary arts groups can make across the country.” Ed Vaizey MP,
Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy
Northern Ireland: “Congratulations to this year’s winner, Milk and Cookies and also to runnerup, The Free Wee Library Project. These are innovative projects which are more
than worthy of this recognition. At the core of all my Department’s activity is a
commitment to promote equality and tackle poverty and social exclusion, and
I am always excited to hear of projects like this which demonstrate the power
the arts have in bringing communities together and initiating positive change.
Voluntary and amateur arts are of immeasurable value to our communities.
They provide a means to celebrate local identities and strengthen the fabric of
communities where cohesion has been eroded. These projects and others like
them are operating at the heart of our society and I commend them all and I
thank Voluntary Arts Ireland for highlighting and celebrating the work local
organisations are doing on the ground.” Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, Minister of Culture, Arts and
Republic of Ireland: “The Epic Awards celebrate the best of the voluntary cultural sector
across Ireland and the UK. Voluntary arts groups play such an important role in
communities across the country, and it is wonderful to see their hard work
recognised by these awards. The dedication and innovation of the voluntary
sector greatly enhances our culture and helps make the arts more accessible. I would like to
congratulate this year’s winners and I hope others will be inspired to get involved in their local
arts organisations.” Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage
and the Gaeltacht
Scotland: “The Voluntary Arts Epic Awards showcase excellent examples of inclusive and local
participation in the arts and the initiative and drive of many dedicated volunteers across the
country who set up and run thousands of arts and cultural groups. Voluntary arts contribute
much to Scotland's rich and varied cultural life and Voluntary Arts Scotland's support helps
enable more people to get involved in creative activities. Congratulations to Kirkcudbright Arts
and Craft Trail for winning this year's Scotland Epic Award. This cross-art form event each
summer has involved the whole community and attracts new visitors to the local area to see for
themselves the stunning and vibrant town. The Runner Up of the Scotland Epic Award, DD8
Music- a music recording and rehearsal facility- is led by some truly inspirational young people
in the town of Kirriemuir. I wish them all continued success.” Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet
Secretary for Culture and External Affairs
Wales: “The Welsh Government is immensely supportive of the work undertaken by Voluntary
Arts Wales in encouraging the voluntary arts sector in Wales. The annual Epic Awards are a
great opportunity to recognise all the important work that goes on in the sector. The success of
MaDCaff, in creating a pressure free performance platform for musicians and dancers who have
been affected by mental illness, is richly deserving of recognition as part of these prestigious
awards. There are serious challenges to having an on-going mental health condition, and in a
rural county like Ceredigion it is very easy to become isolated. To have a chance, once a
month, to spend time with people who will let you be yourself, and express yourself through
creative activities like music and dance, is a valuable and potentially life-changing thing. I am
pleased to see this award go to such a richly deserving project and I’m sure MaDCaff will
continue to be a vital resource to its users.” Ken Skates AM, Deputy Minister for Culture,
Sport & Tourism.
Chief Executive of Spirit of 2012 Debbie Lye said: “At Spirit of 2012 we are immensely proud
to be supporting the EPIC awards for a second year, and particularly pleased to have
sponsored two new awards this year - one for exceptional work with young people and the other
for disabled people. Volunteers keep creative activities thriving in our communities, and are to
be celebrated for all they do to realise the potential of art to bring us into closer connection with
the world around us, and challenge perceptions of what we can achieve. A rich cultural
landscape improves the wellbeing of us as individuals, our communities and society as a
The Winners
The 2015 Winners received a range of prizes, including mentoring, memberships, cash prizes –
and the Epic awards themselves. Being shortlisted, or winning an Epic Award can also have
very positive effects for voluntary arts groups, who find they are taken more seriously by funders
and have their profile raised locally and nationally.
Here’s what our winners had to say:
Epic Awards 2015 England Winner – Friends of the Flyover: “We are thrilled that our event
Flyover Fest has been chosen as the national winner for England in the Epic Awards. Flyover
Fest was a massive public consultation event and celebration of our idea to transform 25,000
tonnes of concrete highway, walkways and spaces beneath into an elevated urban park. The
Flyover Fest event showed just how successful the project could be and how the space could
go on to be an important venue in Liverpool for more cultural and arts events owned and
managed by the voluntary sector. We are excited about what will happen in the next chapter of
The Flyover.” (Kate Stewart, Friends of the Flyover)
Epic Awards 2015 Ireland Winner – Milk and Cookies: "We are absolutely delighted to be
have been given this award, that recognises the work both current and former volunteers have
put into Milk and Cookies over the years to make it what it is today. I think everyone would
agree that no one volunteers for a cultural/arts organisation for acclaim, we all get rewarded in
different ways, but getting this accolade is an unexpected delight and added boon! It really
means a lot and we are honoured to be chosen.” (Edel Doran, Milk and Cookies)
Epic Awards 2015 Scotland Winner – Kirkcudbright Art & Crafts Trail: “The Kirkcudbright
Art and Crafts trail has grown from strength to strength over 12 years, and winning this
prestigious Epic Award is a truly wonderful recognition of all the hard work that has gone into
the creation of this event - not only by the committee of three, but all those who volunteer to
help us fundraise and give hands-on help. We feel truly honoured to win this award, especially
considering our worthy opponents and we are confident this award will further help to promote
our friendly town.” (Pauline Saul, Kirkcudbright Art & Craft Trail)
Epic Awards 2015 Wales Winner – MaDCaff: “We are amazed, excited and delighted as well
as thoroughly grateful to the judging panel for choosing our project for this year’s Epic Awards
for Wales. We started this project with big ideas and this award will help us in so many ways to
develop it further. We want a MaDCaff in every county in Wales because, everywhere we go,
we know we will find people who have the experience of living with a mental health condition
combined with extraordinary skills as musicians, dancers, poets and performers. MaDCaff can
only get bigger and better from here onwards."(Rachel Stelmach, MaDCaff)
For more information about the Epic Awards, visit www.epicawards.co.uk.
For photographs and interview opportunities, please contact Kelly Donaldson on email:
[email protected] or tel: 07843 056023.
- Ends Notes to Editors:
The Epic Awards are an initiative of Voluntary Arts, and aim to showcase and celebrate
excellence and innovation in the voluntary cultural sector across the UK and Republic of
Voluntary Arts operates across the UK and Republic of Ireland, offering information,
advice and support to the 65,000+ groups who regularly provide opportunities for creative
cultural activity in their local area. We also advocate for the voluntary arts sector, and
work with local and national decision makers to help create the best environment for
amateur arts to flourish in.
The Epic Award Winners’ Reception was funded by Spirit of 2012, an independent trust
established with a £47m endowment from the Big Lottery Fund. Spirit of 2012 funds
projects that empower people to get out, be involved and feel better.
Epic Award winners and runners-up received a range of prizes, tailored to their individual
needs from the following partners: Arts & Business Cymru, Audiences NI, Arts &
Business NI, Dance Resource Base, Ulster Association of Youth Drama, Volunteer Now,
Volunteer Ireland, Association of Irish Festival Events, Association of Irish Choirs,
People’s Voice Media, Wales Council for Voluntary Action, Arts Development UK, Making
Music, Sue Isherwood and Rosemary Curtis (consultants).
Sheila McClennon began her broadcasting career on local radio on Merseyside and the
West Midlands and is now a regular voice on BBC Radio 4 having presented Pick of
the Week, Any Answers, Woman's Hour, Saturday Live, You and Yours, The Message
and Sunday. She has also worked for 5Live, BBC1 television and was a reporter on
London Tonight. Sheila also runs media training workshops preparing people for radio
and television.
BBC Outreach & Corporate Responsibility brings the BBC closer to its audiences particularly those audiences it has identified as harder to reach - with face-to-face activity,
community support and staff volunteering. It also holds the relationship with the voluntary
sector for the BBC.