Derry’s dynamic local craft sector is basking in the limelight after a truly outstanding gala celebration in the city’s Guildhall at the prestigious Craft Awards and Fashion Show 2015 which marked the culmination of Enterprise Week.
The organisers, finalists and most especially the award winners, are taking a well deserved bow after the showcase event which was staged as one of the main highlights of Derry City Council’s Craft Development Programme which is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.
Derry’s Mayor, Councillor Brenda Stevenson, described the sell-out celebratory event, which was hosted by UTV presenter Sarah Travers and also featured a stunning contemporary knitwear fashion show, as the latest success story for the city.
Congratulating all the finalists and award winners, Cllr. Stevenson said: “The Craft Awards and Fashion Show 2015 has been a truly magnificent event showcasing the inspirational creativity and talent of our local design and craft sector. Derry City Council’s Craft Development Programme has clearly been an outstanding success and the work that has been accomplished to date will undoubtedly bring huge benefits for the craft community and the city itself.
“Everyone involved in this celebration should be immensely proud of all that has been achieved as Derry has now firmly established itself as a craft destination.”
Deirdre Harte, Derry City Council’s Craft Development Officer, said she was also delighted the event was so well received and is now looking forward to rolling out the remainder of the Craft Development Programme which continues until the end of June 2015.
She thanked all the shortlisted crafters and winners as well as the knitwear designers who played a key role in co-ordinating the fashion show including Edel McBride, Aine Clarke, Margaret Crabtree and Deirdre Wild.
The styling of the Guildhall’s main hall which was co-ordinated by Tracey Hall’s Style Academy, provided the dramatic backdrop for the event which was attended by representatives from Craft NI, the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland and Irish Design 2015.
Derry native Emer Ferran, Enterprise Development Programme Manager with the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland who made return trips from Kilkenny to attend the exhibitions and help present the awards, described it as a “superb” event which was on a par with anything she had seen in London or Dublin and was “flawless”.
There was a huge response to the call for entries to the Craft Awards which were open to crafters and makers working or living in the Derry City and Strabane District Council areas, with 31 shortlisted entries competing for the honours across nine categories.
Hundreds of visitors viewed the shortlisted items which went on exhibition in ‘The Social’ gallery at Shipquay Street, while items from the fashion show collection were also on public display at the nearby Fashion and Textile Design Centre.
A dedicated facebook page to choose the winner of the ‘People’s Choice’ award attracted a massive 37,000 views and around 4,000 likes as well as nearly 400 paper votes cast at the exhibition venues to select the winner, Bronagh Connolly of Crocknit, with ceramicist Leona Devine as runner-up.
Speaking after collecting the ‘People’s Choice’ award, Bronagh Connolly said she was “elated” to have won the popular vote, revealing that she had received support from all over the world during the competition.
“I have sold quite a bit to America and I have had votes coming in from America as well as very strong support locally,” she said.
Kevin McGrellis of The Stone Art Gallery, who won the commission to design the trophies for the awards, also won the Mixed Media category for his latest wire sculptured framed piece entitled ‘The Oakgrove’ which features tiny glass vials containing water droplets from the River Foyle.
Winning ‘Best Newcomer’ was a proud moment for 22-year-old Nicole McLaughlin whose passion for creativity was inspired from early childhood by her dad Anthony, a former art teacher at North West Regional College. Nicole, who is based at the city’s recently established Fashion and Textile Design Centre, impressed the judges with her hand-printed dress collection.
Nicola McLaughlin, who won the Best Student award, said she was delighted to have been chosen as her collection “is all about Derry”, and she plans to remain in the city to pursue her ambition of launching her own fashion line.
Nicola, who also has a fashion blog known as the ‘The Sequin Cinderella’, said: “It would be more important to build on what we have worked on over the past three years than moving away.” She added: “This has been a great event to meet the other crafters and network. There is a great team atmosphere, there is no competition between each other; everybody is excited for everybody else and looking for ways to collaborate.”
The full list of winners is as follows:-
Best Ceramics - Anne-Marie Hughes, Perfect in Poreclain
Best Mixed Media – Kevin McGrellis, The Stone Art Gallery
Best Knitwear - Vivienne Rowe
Best Textiles - Maura McKee
Best Newcomer - Nicole McLaughlin
Most Innovative Product - Bernie Murphy Textile Artist
Fashion Innovation - Leona Cregan, Elsie Tweed
Best Student - Nicola McLaughlin
People’s Choice winner: Bronagh Connolly, Crocknit.
People’s Choice runner-up: Leona Devine Ceramics.