Young people’s group wins prestigous awards

A YOUNG people’s project in Sunderland has won two prestigious High Sheriff Awards.

The Celebrate Different Collective is a group of young people from across Wearside, who meet weekly, supported by Sunderland Culture. The Collective’s members are aged between 13 and 25 and co-produce and run their own events as well as working with artists and learning new practical skills.

It was set up in June 2019 and its members are united on a mission to get their voices heard and to inspire other young people across Sunderland.

The High Sheriff of Tyne & Wear, Sarah Stewart OBE, had heard of the Collective’s work and met members when she joined one of their meetings, via Zoom, late last year. At an online ceremony last night (March 24) the collective won a Sunderland Award and then a Sunderland District Award.

Rachel Hamer, Young People and Communities Producer at Sunderland Culture, said: “The High Sheriff showed great interest in what the Collective was doing and they asked some great questions of her.

“It was great to meet her and we were thrilled to win two categories at the awards, in recognition of the work they were doing before the pandemic hit and their determination to keep meeting and planning since March last year.”

The annual Tyne & Wear High Sheriff Awards Fund was established as part of the Community Foundation in 1993 and last year awarded a total of £47,000 to community groups. The fund is open to organisations which work with young people aged between 10 and 25 years, helping them to develop new skills or overcome personal challenges. Sixty one organisations have been awarded grants from this year’s fund.

Rachel added: “The Awards come with £750 and £1,250 respectively, which the group will put toward projects its working on at the moment. These include curating Bright Lights, an exhibition of young people’s artwork at Arts Centre Washington, which they did last year.

“Despite the lockdowns, the Collective has been busy – it met with the Arts Council Collection’s Director and, Arts Council England’s Deputy Chief Executive, for a roundtable discussion; it is co-curating another exhibition for Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens this Autumn, while members are also studying for their Silver and Gold Arts Awards.”

Millie Temple, 15, who attends St Robert of Newminster School in Washington, has been a member of the Collective since 2019: “I joined because I love the arts and was interested in what the Collective was doing – and planning to do.

“I really enjoyed the Celebrating Different event we held at Arts Centre Washington. We organised the event and commissioned the artists involved and I was the event evaluator, which I enjoyed.

“I was excited when we were told about the awards and we were looking forward to the virtual ceremony which we all enjoyed.”

The High Sheriff said: “Many congratulations to Sunderland Culture on winning two Tyne & Wear High Sheriff Awards. Their work with young people, providing much needed opportunities and support, has never been more important than over the past 12 months. I wish them every success in the coming year.” 

The group is currently ten strong, but new members are always welcome – email [email protected].  Although the Collective was originally based at Arts Centre Washington, before the Covid restrictions were imposed it was meeting at other Sunderland Culture venues, including The Fire Station and Sunderland Museum.

The High Sheriff’s Awards are based on an endowment fund that was set up by two former High Sheriffs of Tyne & Wear, Roger Spoor and Sir David Chapman. Income from the fund is supplemented through fundraising activities and grants from trusts and foundations, such as the Sir James Knott Trust which has generously supported the High Sheriff Awards over many years.

The fund is held at the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, and matches generous people with important community causes. Every year, the Foundation award grants to hundreds of small charities in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland, and across North East England, through funds set up by a range of donors.