Edinburgh pupil Michelangelo wins arts prize

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HE shares his name with one of the masters of sculpture – and now a city high school student has scooped a prestigious award after composing a song inspired by a sculpture of Nelson Mandela.

Michelangelo Mulholland, an 18-year-old sixth year at St Thomas of Aquin’s High School, penned his song, 50 Fractured Bars, in response to Marco Cianfanelli’s Capture Site, a famous piece of art located on the place Mandela was arrested in 1962.

Award winner Michelangelo Mulholland. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Award winner Michelangelo Mulholland. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Capital pupils studied the work as part of this year’s John Byrne Award – which sees young adults in Edinburgh asked to respond to visual stimulus to encourage understanding of values and ethics.

Alex Wallace, the chairman of the judging panel, said that Michelangelo had produced a “deeply thoughtful fusion of words and images” with his song and added he had been “moved and blown away” by the number.

Michelangelo, of Morningside, said: “The sculpture was a brilliant stimulus, especially for me. My dad had been to Zimbabwe when he was younger, so when I was a kid he’d tell me about apartheid and the plight of people at that time.

“Songwriting is something I love to do. I’ve written quite a few songs but this one was a different experience. I took the piece quite literally and I thought it was important to have a message for future ­generations as well.

“It was the John Byrne Award that really brought Mandela to my attention and I’ve learned so much more about him because of this. It’s been a brilliant experience and the award teaches a lot of life lessons like writing the application and having interviews.”

Michelangelo, who plans to study European languages and culture at Edinburgh University next year, has won £2000 to spend on his personal development and £5000 for anything that will improve a 
community.

The entrants submit a report explaining their process and research of the issues. A shortlist of 12 then presented work to the judges, who this year included former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway and artist David Mach. A version of the award also runs in Durban, South Africa.

Struan Wilson and the team of Adam Cheong-MacLeod and Ali O’Connell, all from James Gillespie’s High School, were commended along with Nikita Tilak, from Currie Community High School. Those commended get £1000 for personal development.

An awards ceremony took place at Edinburgh University last night, with Michelangelo and the commended finalists performing their entries.

Award figurehead, Scottish artist and playwright John Byrne said: “This award is very important to me as it encourages young adults to cast a critical eye over values which we older people hold dear, then deliver, more often than not, an entirely fresh and very modern take on those values.”