West End arts group's joy over Epic award
These are the celebratory words of a West End arts group who have come runners up for a national award.
The awards, which are organised by Voluntary Arts, celebrate the achievements of voluntary arts groups across the UK by recognising skill, innovation and hard work that goes into their activities.
“It was totally a surprise to me, I’m amazed that we even stood a chance let alone get an award so it is fabulous,” said Jules Abraham, a volunteer at The Exchange.
“It rewards all our hard work in the West End that we have put in, it has been worth it.”
The Exchange Creative Community, set up 18 months ago, consists of 18 core volunteers, community members and artists who hope to rejuvenate the area through the arts and inspire others.
The awards, which were held at the Sage Centre in Gateshead, were presented by poet Ian McMillan.
“Ian said he had relations in Morecambe and said if he was down in the area he would drop us a visit, which I thought was very nice,” said Jules.
Beki Melrose, co-drector at the Exchange, Jo Bambough and Wendy O’Hara attended the ceremony with Jules and they also brought along a special guest – Colin the Exchange’s teddy mascot.
“We got Colin up to shake Ian’s hand,” said Jules.
“There’s a toilet at the Exchange and people kept putting the toilet key in their pockets and walking off.
“Someone made this cuddly toy key ring so no one could walk off with the key, it has become a comical feature of the Exchange.”
Beki Melrose said: “It couldn’t have come at a better time as we embrace the next chapter in moving into the Trinity Methodist Church, launching a community art studio, hub space with cafe, gallery and a gift shop.”
The group have been successful in receiving funding and support from Unlimited, a foundation for social enterprise ‘Build It’ award and a community trade up program delivered in partnership by the School of Social Enterpreneurs and Power to Change.