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Highland humanitarian efforts see Eden Court Theatre in Inverness shortlisted for UK award recognising its work during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic


By Philip Murray

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Eden Court's chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman and the theatre;s pantomime director and actor Steven Wren with some of the bags of food which were bagged up during the first Covid lockdown. Picture: Gary Anthony.
Eden Court's chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman and the theatre;s pantomime director and actor Steven Wren with some of the bags of food which were bagged up during the first Covid lockdown. Picture: Gary Anthony.

TIRELESS efforts to assist those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic have seen a Highland theatre shortlisted for a special new UK award.

Eden Court in Inverness is into the final ten in the running for the award, which was created by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch), in partnership with King’s College London. More than 260 organisations had initially been considered for the Award for Civic Arts Organisations, which celebrates the civic role of arts bodies in society.

And Eden Court was praised for its work alongside Highland Council to help with the region's response to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns.

The theatre re-purposed its staff and facilities to help out as a humanitarian aid centre for the area, packing and distributing thousands of food parcels each week, as well as providing activities for children of keyworkers.

Away from the Covid response the competition organisers also acknowledged other civic-minded activities such as the theatre's work to turn its restaurant's windows into a temporary community exhibition, highlighting a collection of local Black Lives Matters banners.

"We're humbled to be alongside the other nine organisations in all corners of the UK,” said Eden Court’s chief executive, James Mackenzie-Blackman. “Throughout 2020 we embedded our community, and artists, in our response to the events of such a strange and difficult year. As we recover, this work will continue."

The final winners will receive an award of £100,000, while two others will received £25,000 each.

Commenting on Eden Court and the other entrants, Andrew Barnett, director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation's UK branch, said: “We have been deeply impressed by the quality of the 260 submissions received and want to thank those who applied. Up and down the country, arts organisations have been playing a pivotal role in sustaining our communities, providing connection, joy, and hope.

"The ten shortlisted organisations are each uniquely modelling what it means to have a civic role. Their approaches will inform and inspire the work of others at this challenging time.”

The nine other hopeful finalists include entrants from as far afield as London, Brighton, Coventry and Manchester.

One other finalist is from Scotland, the Aberdeenshire based Deveron Projects, who rethought their global artist in residence policy during lockdown - ultimately spawning an online global ‘Slow Marathon’, where walkers from around the world shared their lockdown walks to circumnavigate the planet.

Baroness Bull, who is the vice president and vice principal (London) at King’s College London, as well as being the chairwoman for the judges, added: “It was a privilege to review the range of submissions to the award, which came from across the whole of the UK and which demonstrated the imaginative ways in which the cultural sector has responded creatively and with great resilience to the challenges of this exceptional year.

“We were inspired as a panel to see how organisations large and small had connected with their communities to serve local needs while continuing to deliver life-enhancing opportunities through culture and creativity.”
Related news: Eden Court Theatre staff in to help bolster Highland Council services after two organisations join forces



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