Northamptonshire art and heritage gems honoured with awards

The awards were made by Northamptonshire Heritage Forum

By Alison Bagley
Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 1:02 pm

Twelve of the county's best loved cultural experiences have been honoured at the Northamptonshire Heritage Forum awards - the Oscars of local heritage.

In front of a Zoom audience of dignitaries and VIPs, the awards celebrated the very best of Northamptonshire’s heritage.

Compered by John Griff, Northamptonshire's Deputy Lieutenant, the ceremony welcomed guests including James Lowther, Vice Lord Lieutenant, Earl Spencer, forum patron, MPs Dame Andrea Leadsom and Andrew Lewer, and Anna Earnshaw and Rob Bridge, chief executive of West Northants and North Northants Councils respectively.

Some of the award-winning projects

Mr Griff said: "Themes emerged during the evening. Yes, it has been hard for us all to keep going during the pandemic but imagination, passion and commitment have enabled many to find new ways of working together and produced wonderful results that have kept spirits high both within the team and the communities they serve. New skills have been learned by many, especially increased familiarisation with digital world.

"The innovation demonstrated by the winners has been an inspiration for us all. And as James Lowther, Vice Lord Lieutenant, reminded us, our unique Northamptonshire Heritage is something to be proud of and is an important element of the offer to the multimillion-pound tourism business, essential to our hospitality sector."

Forum chairman, Martin Lawrence, welcomed members and guests, thanked all who had taken part and congratulated all the winners.

The winners were:

Stanwick Lakes - Best Volunteer Project won by Rockingham Forest Trust

Best Volunteer Project won by Rockingham Forest Trust

The Stanwick Lakes heritage garden and wellbeing orchard are part of the Settlers project that was developed to showcase heritage plants grown by the settlers in an authentic setting. Visitors can enjoy the garden or get hands-on as a volunteer - to learn more about ancient plants and garden maintenance.

The judges said: "This was a project which supported volunteers mental health and wellbeing, as well as producing an attractive location for visitors. It’s a great place to visit safely in the wide-open spaces and historic scenic locations of Stanwick Lakes."

Best Event Award won by 78 Derngate

Best Community Project Award won by Rushden Museum

The fundraising event, hosted in conjunction with Northampton High School, featured Heidi Thomas, creator of Call the Midwife TV series, and her actor husband Steve McGann. The couple wrote and presented the entire evening all about the making of the BBC series.

The judges said: "This entry was unique, professionally delivered and very popular with the public. The social history themes were relevant and interesting."

Best project under £500 won by Northampton Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG)

NMAG produced a short video filmed on a mobile phone showing the museum team during the second lockdown as a teaser to promote re-opening the museum after the £6.7m redevelopment project. It was distributed via the museum’s social media channels and on the museum’s new website.

Best Exhibition Award won by Nenescape

The judges said: "We were impressed by the high quality and high-impact production despite using a ubiquitously available gadget. It was morale boosting for the team, and exciting for the public to see what is in store for the reopening."

Best response to the Covid pandemic won by Daventry Museum

Staff and volunteers at Daventry Museum took the lockdown as an opportunity to try new digital technologies to display the museum’s exhibitions, stay in touch with each other, research the collection, tackle an accessioning backlog and engage safely in person and digitally with audiences old and new.

The judges said: "The team seemed to condense five years' work into a single year. The digital project created awareness in a wider audience even though visitors couldn’t get to the museum. Their work in keeping parents and children engaged through home schooling made an important contribution to family lives in a difficult period.

"All of this as well as taking the time to work through collections management and making improvements has resulted in a sustainable way of working and making the museum more resilient for the future."

Best Exhibition Award won by Nenescape, Rushden

Re-using a former railway line, Nenescape created an appealing segment of the green corridor by decorating a tunnel with a mural, inscribing benches, celebrating both the social history of Rushden and its connections with the natural heritage of the Nene Valley. Residents and schools contributed words and pictures of what Rushden means to them.

The judges said: "Creativity and the natural open space coming together was a wonderful concept. It has created an impact with locals and walkers enjoying the outdoor experience which records the town’s history, past and present. It ticks all the boxes that an outdoor exhibition should."

Best special project completed over five years won by The Sikh Museum

Sikh Community Centre & Youth Club (SCCYC)'s project to develop a new museum from scratch has not been hampered by the pandemic. The team behind the project has used volunteers to carry on through the pandemic digitally when needed.

The judges said: "The whole project was ambitious and well-funded. Many partnerships with local organisations explain and promote the Sikh heritage and contribution to Britain. The value of the project shone through with big community support, generating a sense of pride and achievement. The museum is an important resource for the future, and we wish it great success."

Best Special Project completed over five years - Highly Commended - Sywell Aviation Museum

‘Operation Moonraker – Bringing Jenny to Sywell 2019–2021.’ The museum obtained their second complete aeroplane, a 5,000kg twin turboprop that required researching, dismantling, transporting 25 miles, rebuilding and restoring it into a new museum classroom.

The judges said: "This was ‘every little boy’s dream’. It certainly showed great determination, problem solving, and persistence to achieve this ambitious plan. The passion of the team in making their dream happen was a true labour of love."

Best Community Project Award won by Rushden Museum

Celebrating 110 years of the Scouting movement in Rushden, the small exhibition was made possible with photos and artefacts from the museum collection and items borrowed from the wider community.

The judges said: "Beavers, Cubs and Scouts from many generations shared reminiscences and the high levels of engagement gave the project a strong community appeal, with a lasting legacy."

Hindsight Award for best published work won by ‘Northampton, 5,000 years of History’ by Mike Ingram

Exhaustively researched Northampton, 5,000 years of History by Mike Ingram is dedicated to local historian the late Ron Greenhall, and tells the story of Northampton from its origins through to the 1970s.

The judges said: "A solid read that includes a good index and glossary and an essential reference work for years to come."

People’s Choice Award won by Art Works, Friends of Kettering Art Gallery and Museum

This organisation’s creative space has brightened up the Newlands Centre in Kettering, displaying paintings, sculptures and ceramics. The Friends won the award taking 31 per cent of the vote from a shortlist of ten.

Judges’ Choice Special Commendation awarded to Northamptonshire Battlefields Society (NBS)

Entered into five categories, NBS were runners-up in several and impressed the panel with their enthusiasm that they were commended.

The judges said: "We were impressed with the energy and passion of the five entries by NBS. It seemed that Covid had not remotely got in the way of the exuberance of this society, and they continued to write, model, plan and deliver great engagement with their public, digitally, via social media, and face to face when it was possible.

"They delivered so much to appeal to a wide variety of interests, that their contributions to the heritage life of the county cannot be ignored. Well done to all the team."

Heritage Organisation of the Year won by Northampton Museum and Art Gallery​

Now re-opened after the major refurbishment, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery staff had been working hard behind the scenes with new digital engagement, collecting new material for future social historians, and maintaining morale of the volunteers and team throughout the closure.

The judges said: "Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is demonstrating well what the Northamptonshire flagship museum should be doing, and we all look forward to seeing the new state-of-the-art galleries."

Judges’ Choice Special Commendation awarded to Northamptonshire Battlefields Society
Best Special project completed over five years won by The Sikh Museum SCCYC
Best project under £500 won by Northampton Museum and Art Gallery