Swire Ridgeway Arts Prize 2018

 Funded by a magnanimous donation, the Committee was able to implement in 2017 a long-standing ambition to launch an Arts Competition and Prize, celebrating the creative and artistic inspiration of the Ridgeway.  Following strong support in 2017, the Competition was held again in 2018 and will, it is hoped, become established as an annual event.

The 2018 Exhibition and prize giving for the Swire Ridgeway Arts Prize was held over the weekend of Saturday and Sunday 21 – 22 April 2018 in the Thomas Hughes Memorial Hall, Uffington. On Friday there was a Private Viewing for invited guests to meet the artists; guests included the President and Vice President and Committee Members of the Friends of the Ridgeway, representatives of the Ridgeway Partnership, members of the Press and Friends of the Ridgeway members as well as the artists. Sunday was the Ridgeway Friends Day and Friends of the Ridgeway AGM.

Entries reached a total of 82 overall with 13 written, 4 sculpture, 19 photographs and 46 paintings.  There was a considrable variety of works entered, including some wonderful textile picture. Whilst entries came predominantly from the Wiltshire and Oxfordshire ridgeway corridor, some were received from further afield with the overall winning entry from Dorset.

All works entered were exhibited making a wonderful and varied exhibition of art works inspired by the Ridgeway. A large thank you is due to all entrants for submitting works; there was wonderful entry enabling a comprehensive exhibition to be mounted including a large variety of works not only between categories but within the individual categories. The Judges were very complimentary about the variety and quality of the work exhibited.

The results of the competition were announced and prizes awarded at the Prize Giving after the Friends of the Ridgeway AGM.  The Judges were:

  • Dorothy Burrows, Chair of Judges. Dorothy, a former drama teacher with a passion for storytelling, theatre and writing, has been involved in local community events for many years and has been the director of the Betjeman Festival.
  • Clover Stroud, written work judge. She is a local author of the Ridgeway memoir ‘The Wild Other’; she writes for the Dailey Mail, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph and Conde Nast Traveller amongst others.  She lies in Oxfordshire with her husband and five children.
  • Esther Lafferty, painting judge, is the organiser of Oxfordshire Artweeks, a visual arts festival involving around 1,000 artists and around 450 venues each year; details at www.artweeks.org She also has a Masters Degree in Human Sciences from the University in Oxford and worked as a medical publisher before turning her hand to writing and event organisation, reviewing children’s literature.
  • Paul Wilkinson, photographic judge, is one of the UK’s most sought-after photographers. With a life-long love of photography and a passion for creating beautiful, timeless images, he has established himself at the top of his profession as a people photographer. Paul has won an array of awards for his work and is now an International Judge. Details at www.paulwilkinsonphotography.co.uk
  • Jo Boseley and Lyn Harrison, the sculpture judges, are Oxfordshire based sculptures known for their quirky, decorative and functional stoneware ceramics.

After much debate amongdst the judges, the piece that best expressed the ‘Spirit of Ridgeway’ was a written work ‘Time Travelling’. The winners were:

•           Overall winner and written work: Alison Green for ‘Time Travelling’

•           Sculpture: Sharon Rich ‘Moonlight Owl’

•           Photography: David Castle ‘Free spirit along the Ridgeway’

•           Painting: Maia Sissons ‘Fingers of God over Sparsholt Firs’

The number and standard of the writen entries was outstanding with several pieces warrenting commanding attanetion. Clover Stroud commented that every single entry had real merits and picking a winner was a very difficult job. Ultimately, ‘Time Travelling’ by Alison Jane Green, was chosen as winner of the writen work category. Clover said “I felt that Alison combined both a vivid sense of the geography and history of Europe’s oldest road with a sensitivity and lyricism that I found extremely moving. Indeed I was moved to tears by the final paragraph, and reading her entry gave me a strong sense of what it FEELS like to travel the Ridgeway, conveying the singular journey through time and space that walking this incredible environment can leave one with”.

For the sculpture category, Jo Boseley and Lyn Harrison said that “From a small field of entries, Sharon Rich’s ‘Moonlight Owl’ shone out for its brilliant execution and attention to detail”. They also loved the movement in the papier-mache Hare.

Within the painting category, there was a variety of works including several textile works. Esther Lafferty describes how she was particularly taken with the felted view from the top of White Horse Hill by Ushma Sargeant: “This picture”, she said, “had an instant visceral appeal. Both art and any individual’s emotional response to it is very subjective: for me this view is the defining Ridgeway panorama, and the special spot I visit to blow away tensions in everyday life”.  The paintings showed a great variety of styles capturing the spirit of the Ridgeway. Esther chose, as the overall winner of the painting category, ‘Fingers of God over Sparsholt Firs’ by Maia Sissons. “It’s a spirited and uplifting picture which captures the intangible magic of the Ridgeway, and the strength of feeling it elicits in the people who walk its routes” she explains.

Commemntimng on the winning photograph, ‘Free spirit along the Ridgeway’ by David Castle,  Paul Wilkinson  said: “The winning image transported me to a late spring walk amongst the foothills of the ridgeway, particularly where I live in the Aylesbury Vale, with the Chilterns looming up out of the seemingly endless yellow of the Rape fields. I loved the composition, with the eye naturally drawn to the Red Kit (or possibly a Buzzard) launching in the foreground to the ridge away in the distance”.

After much debate, all the judges took the view that, given the outstanding nature of the writen entries, the overall winner should be one. Dorothy Burrows, Chair of the judging panel, said “In choosing the overall winner, we selected the work that we felt matched the competition’s criteria of Spirit of the Ridgeway most fully. Alison Jane Green’s evocative and highly personal piece of writing appealed to all of us: the formal style of language coupled with the meandering and quirky nature of the prose somehow reflected what it feels like to travel along the Ridgeway and illustrated how everyone’s experience of this wonderful path is unique”. The considerable talent and creativity of all the competitors was apparent and resulted in a delightful and thought-provoking exhibition.

Introduced by Lord Bradshaw, Sir Adrian Swire presented the prizes to the winners. And after the prize giving a cream tea for all at the exhibition. We were all delighted with the success of the Art Prize over the week-end.  For this the Friends of the Ridgeway owe a real debt of gratitude for all the hard work and organisation, from the voluinteers involved.