John Byrne inspires launch of Oscars-style event celebrating 'Scottish talent and creativity'

The leading Scottish artist and writer John Byrne is to inspire the creation of a major new Oscars-style ceremony in Edinburgh recognising the nation’s unsung creative talents.

Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 10:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 6:50 am
The John Byrne Award ceremony is billed as 'Scotland's leading creative arts competition.' Picture: Fine Art Society.

Poets, painters, filmmakers, singers and designers from across Scotland will all be eligible to be honoured at the new annual event - billed as “a celebration of Scottish talent and creativity” – which the creator of Tutti Frutti and The Slab Boys will be overseeing.

A major shake-up of a contest originally instigated to recognise talented schoolchildren in Edinburgh will see the John Byrne Award opened up to people of all ages and all art forms.

Broadcaster Vic Galloway will be hosting an 800-capacity gala ceremony at the 109-year-old Central Hall in Edinburgh, where nine different awards will be handed out at the ceremony on Saturday 7 March.

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They include the main John Byrne Award, which comes with a £7,500 cash prize, three times what was previously on offer.

It is hoped the shake-up of the awards will see them become swiftly established as “Scotland’s leading creative arts competition.”

Individual categories will recognise innovation, critical thinking, skill, artistry, community, positivity and an outstanding contribution, while the awards are open to any creative medium, including short films, documentaries, essays, sculptures and songs.

The awards, which were originally open to school pupils in Edinburgh, were expanded four years ago to ensure that anyone in Scotland between the ages of 16 and 19 could enter.

They are now open to anyone over the age of 16 who is either living or studying in Scotland.

Byrne, who turned 80 this month, will be presiding over the awards months before unveiling his brand new stage play, Underwood Lane, which is based on his experiences of growing up in Paisley in the 1950s and 1960s.

He said: “I think it’s a very good thing that people of all ages who are making things are eligible for the awards. I’m sure people in their fifties and their sixties would appreciate both the honour and the money.

“As far as I know, there are no other awards like this which are open to such a wide range of creative people. Hopefully it will give people are unknown entities to keep going at whatever they are doing.”

Niall Dolan, chief executive of the John Byrne Award, said: “The quality, depth and diversity of work across a breadth of creative mediums is notable.

“Inclusivity is the underpinning ethos of the John Byrne Award and this is clearly resonating with Scotland’s creative community. The countdown is now on and we would encourage artists who wish to get involved to submit their entries by the end of this month.”

Andrew Paterson, founder of The Iris Initiative, the charity behind the event, said: “The John Byrne Award seeks to encourage debate through any creative medium on the values which shape our society.

“The competition is non-partisan and the positive benefits of this neutrality is very much reflected in the strength of entries and the wide-reaching social commentary presented.

"We’re pleased to be strengthening the engagement and reach of the ward and look forward to seeing what promises to be a thought-provoking selection of finalists.”