Derry's Nerve Centre announce winners of new creative funding awards

Initiative set up in memory of key supporter Ken Robinson

Derry's Nerve Centre announce winners of new creative funding awards

Nerve Centre's young Music Hothouse participants performing at Stendhal Festival in 2019.

The Nerve Centre in Derry today announced the details of 11 individuals and groups who have won a share of the £20,000 Unlocking Creativity award fund, in memory of Sir Ken Robinson.

Mr Robinson led national and international projects on creative and cultural education across the world unlocking and igniting the creative energy of many people and organisations, including pioneering work in Northern Ireland.

He passed away in 2020 and the Unlocking Creativity Awards were set up to support inspirational individuals, organisations and schools who are empowering others through creative learning.

The awards are funded by the Department for Communities through Northern Ireland Screen.

This year’s winners include illustrator and educator Jacky Sheridan, sculptor Maurice Harron, arts groups Stendhal Festival and Sticky Fingers, and educational gaming company Kippie.

School awards went to Thornhill College in Derry and St Aidan’s High School in County Fermanagh.

Community awards went to Project Sparks in Derry, which trains disabled artists to teach music to children and Newtownabbey Arts and Cultural Network in Rathcoole, which skills up hard-to-reach young people in creative and digital technologies.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “Our collective experiences in 2020 have emphasised the importance of creativity and innovation in response to challenges and changing circumstances, and how digital creativity in particular can connect communities.

“These awards promote creativity and inclusion across the spectrum of the arts, and I hope that many young people will be inspired to ‘unlock their creativity’ as a result.

“I am particularly encouraged to see the focus within the winning projects on removing barriers to participation, and ensuring that everyone across our communities has access to the arts and to creative careers, and I offer my congratulations to the winners.”

Mr Robinson's work in Northern Ireland including the development of the Unlocking Creativity strategy which led to the establishment of Northern Ireland’s Creative Learning Centres.

The centres in Derry, Belfast and Armagh train thousands of teachers and young people in the creative use of digital technologies each year.

Announcing the awards, Pearse Moore, chief executive of the Nerve Centre, said: “Ken Robinson was a stalwart supporter of the Nerve Centre and of our model for promoting the creative use of digital technologies in the classroom.

“His wonderful legacy endures today and we are privileged to be part of it. Congratulations to all the winners of the Unlocking Creativity Awards.

“These groups and organisations embody the work of Sir Ken through their inspirational work in creativity and education.”

Mr Robinson's daughter Kate Robinson, said they were delighted to support the creation of the awards.

“I think my dad would have been incredibly honoured, excited and enthusiastic about all of this. Not least because Northern Ireland holds a very special place in our hearts as a family.

“It’s incredible to see what’s happening there in terms of the work dad did. To see these incredible recipients carrying the work forward has been very humbling. We look forward to seeing what they go on to do.”

Richard Williams, CEO of Northern Ireland Screen, congratulated all the winners.

“Sir Ken was a leader in creativity and education for young people, especially during the establishment of Northern Ireland’s Creative Learning Centres, and his support has enabled many to acquire essential digital skills, assist learning in schools and develop creative workforces.”

The full list of winners of the Unlocking Creativity Awards 2021 is:

Company Award


Community Award

Project Sparks, Derry

NACN Coole Studios, Rathcoole

Arts Awards

Sticky Fingers Arts, Newry

Stendhal Festival / ArtAbyss Children’s festival, Limavady

School Awards

Thornhill College, Derry

St Aidan’s HS, Derrylin, County Fermanagh

Individual Awards

Jacky Sheridan, Belfast

Ursula McHugh, Derry

Maurice Harron, Derry

Noelle McAlinden, Enniskillen

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