Major Awards for four NI artists
Major awards of £15,000 each have been presented to four of Northern Ireland’s leading artists in honour of their contribution to the arts in Northern Ireland.
The prestigious awards, the largest given to individual artists by the Arts Council, were awarded to jazz drummer and composer Steven Davis, novelists Colin Bateman and Eoin McNamee and playwright Abbie Spallen.
The four join an esteemed list of artists who have previously benefited from the award, including local writers, Carlo Gébler, Damian Gorman, Glenn Patterson and Owen McCafferty, leading contemporary artists, Rita Duffy, Susan MacWilliam, Patricia Craig and Cara Murphy, and celebrated composer Elaine Agnew.
The grants, which are equivalent in value to such international awards as the TS Elliot Prize, make it possible for artists to take time out to dedicate to their creative work and to produce a substantial and ambitious project that will make a significant contribution to the development of their careers.
Congratulating this year’s recipients, Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “All four of these artists have already made a notable contribution to the arts in Northern Ireland. Each will benefit greatly from being able to spend the year concentrating purely on their new projects and with the financial backing needed to produce work of lasting value. This award will help to cement their national and international reputations, and help to strengthen the positive cultural profile of Northern Ireland abroad.”
Colin Bateman is a multi-award winning Bangor-based writer and has published 30 novels since 1995. He is best known for his crime-fiction work, including titles like Divorcing Jack and Of Sweetie Mice and Men. His first play, National Anthem, was shortlisted for the Irish Time Theatre Awards in 2010. His Major Individual Award from the Arts Council will enable him to work on a new novel, Papercuts. The novel will see Bateman step outside of the crime-fiction genre, to the world of a small town weekly Northern Ireland newspaper.
Commenting on his award Colin Bateman said: “The Major Individual Award has been of huge value in that it allows me to work on fiction outside of what I might normally be expected to produce. I've published more than thirty books over the past twenty years, and I love writing crime fiction, but sometimes you need to try something else, and try it away from the commercial pressures that come with working in genre fiction. The Major Individual Award lifts those pressures and buys me that time - and the great thing is I have no idea what will come of it, which takes me back to the way I started writing all those years ago, the way it should be, when there was no great expectation but there was a lot of excitement.”
Eoin McNamee is an award winning writer. He has published and received critical acclaim for the 17 novels he has written for adult and young adult audiences, as well as his poetry, film and radio work. Resurrection Man, the story of the Shankill Butchers, and The Blue Tango, which examined the murder of High Court Judge Sir Lancelot Curran’s 19-year-old daughter Patricia, are among his best known novels. He won the Macauley Fellowship in 1992, The Los Angeles Times Best Book in 1995, the Crime Writers Association Steel Dagger in 2002 and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2001. He will use his award from the Arts Council to work on a new novel, Hurricane, based on the life of the snooker player, Alex Higgins.
Eoin McNamee said he was pleased to win the award: “It is extremely valuable to have the autonomy to work independently, to be able to stand outside formal work structures and take the time to work into the deep lodes of language and meaning. I am very grateful for the opportunity.”
Abbie Spallen is a Newry-based writer and has won international acclaim for her work in theatre, radio, television and film. She recently completed a year as writer-in-residence at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and has been commissioned by the National Theatre in London to write a major satirical drama for the Olivier stage. Her award from the Arts Council will enable her to take time out to work on her first musical – a play about Lough Derg and its followers. The play will mark a major change in focus for Abbie, using songs for the first time to drive her narrative forward.
Speaking about her award she commented: “I am delighted to receive this award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. To be able to afford the time to concentrate solely on my work is of immense benefit to me right now. With this award I will be able to write my first original stage musical; the prospect of which fills me with that most healthiest of things; terror!”
Steven Davis is an award winning jazz drummer and composer, based in Donaghadee. He has toured all over Europe and America and written for a variety of projects, including work for film, theatre and dance. He was awarded the New Music Biennial Award 2014 PRS for Music Foundation and nominated for the Paul Hamlyn Award for Composers in 2013. His Arts Council funding will allow Steven to develop his joint compositional and performance approach to music.
Upon receiving the award, Steven said: “I am so happy to receive this award. The Arts Council have been such a support at this crucial time in my career as an artist. The award has provided a great opportunity for me to travel and collaborate with other artist in New York and London. This will help me further my career on an international scale.”