Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Creative Times: Best of Manchester - shortlist announced

Debbie Smith

Published 31.07.08

After an eight week competition, hundreds of entries and a panel of judges led by Peter Saville, Urbis reveals the shortlist for the Best of Manchester Awards 2008.

The annual awards – now in their second year – celebrate innovation in three fields: art, music and fashion. Entry was via an open competition, with entrants encouraged to submit work that was genuinely new, exciting and innovative. Over 250 creative professionals entered – an increase of 65% on last year’s inaugural awards.

Some of the biggest names in art, music and fashion joined Peter Saville at Urbis to sift through the entries, including the broadcaster and critic, Miranda Sawyer; Luke Bainbridge (Observer Music Monthly); Caroline Elleray, Head of A&R at Universal Music Publishing; the Castlefield Gallery’s Kwong Lee; David Mallon, the fashion brains behind Ringspun and Elvis Jesus; and Tim Thomas of Manchester’s Blueprint Studios.

Together, the judges agreed a shortlist for each category:


Music promoter Richard Cheetham is the brains behind independent label, club night and fanzine, High Voltage. Cheetham began High Voltage as a student and, over the past five years, has gone on to publish music by bands including The KBC, The Answering Machine and Nine Black Alps. It’s this entrepreneurial spirit – and his support of new music in Manchester – that won Cheetham praise from the judges.

Taking a similar entrepreneurial tack is Duncan Sime. At the forefront of the folk scene in Manchester, Sime developed the club night and independent label, Red Deer Club. Sime has published twelve releases by artists such as Sara Lowes, Sophie Pigeons, George Thomas and David A Jaycock. Red Deer Club is now attracting attention from music lovers across the UK – it was recently feted by Word magazine as the ‘Manchester hub’ of the nu folk scene – and it is his commitment to new music that ensured Sime a place on the shortlist.

Jasper Wilkinson, as part of multimedia collective I Am Your Autopilot, fuses music, animation and visual art to create visually and musically arresting new work. In the shortlisted entry, a music video entitled Smokescreens, I Am Your Autopilot blend hard-edged electronica with choral sounds, using synthesizers, guitar and multi-layered harmonies to create what Wilkinson describes as ‘sonic landscapes’. Smokescreens was produced in collaboration with Manchester-based TV and film producer, DeathtothePixels.


Artist Paul Harfleet’s practice combines installation, photography and an interest in the peculiarities of everyday urban life. His work includes The Pansy Project, a series of interventions at sites of homophobic attack or abuse. Beginning as a small-scale autobiographical work in Manchester, The Pansy Project has gone on to appear in London, Liverpool, EgilsstaĆ°ir (Iceland), Berlin and New York. Harfleet is also behind The Apartment, an artist-led exhibition space inside a one-bedroom council flat. It is his contribution to the arts in Manchester that secured Harfleet a place on the shortlist.

Conceptual artist Naomi Kashiwagi has long been interested in obsolete technological objects such as manual typewriters and gramophones. Her past work includes turning gramophones into record turntables and employing a piano as a drawing instrument. The work for which Naomi was shortlisted is ‘||: Repetition :||, Fugue No.1 in QWERTY for 8 Typewriters’, a music and text score composed for typewriters that saw four pianists and four percussionists ‘playing’ the typewriters. Kashiwagi’s originality won particular praise from the judges.

Jai Redman is creative director of artists’ collective and design studio UHC (Ultimate Holding Company). UHC first came to attention thanks to the 2003 project This Is Camp X-Ray. Here, UHC installed a fully operational, life-size replica of the US internment camp at Guantanamo Bay – in Hulme. Fusing Redman’s interests in politics, direct action and contemporary art, This Is Camp X-Ray was followed up by other projects including the Thin Veneer of Democracy, a 16-foot table whose surface is decorated with a ‘power map’ of Manchester’s corporate and political movers and shakers. Redman’s role as director of UHC particularly impressed the judges.


Fashion entrepreneur Simon Buckley runs vintage boutique Rags to Bitches. Much more than a run-of-the-mill second hand store, Rags to Bitches offers a bespoke dressmaking service; has its own label; runs sewing, pattern-cutting and dressmaking courses; counts celebrities such as Celine Dion among its fans; supports up-and-coming local designers and was recently voted by The Daily Telegraph as one of Britain’s best boutiques. It was the venture’s potential for expansion that won high praise from the judges.

Nabil El-Nayal is a designer whose dramatic, monochrome collection immediately caught the attention of the judges. A graduate of Manchester School of Art, El-Nayal designed a seven outfits inspired by the Elizabethan era. While the clothes are visually arresting, El-Nayal’s work is also commercially viable, with his collection ranging from the extreme (a dress with six sleeves, for example) to outfits that are capable of making the leap from the catwalk to the high street.

Another graduate of Manchester School of Art, Hasan Hejazi has focused his creative energies on establishing his own womenswear business. As well as creating beautiful, bespoke clothing, however, Hejazi is an experienced stylist and offers a personal shopping service for his Manchester-based clients. It is Hejazi’s entrepreneurial spirit, alongside his talent as both a designer and a stylist, which secured his place on the final shortlist.

The nine shortlisted entrants’ work will be shown in a special Best of Manchester exhibition at Urbis, which opens on 8 August. The category winners will be revealed live at the Best of Manchester awards ceremony at Urbis on Thursday 7 August.

Winning the Best of Manchester 2008 Award is about more than accolade: each of the three winners will walk away with a cash prize of £2000 and a tailored professional development package, drawn up by the judges, designed to help further their career and ensure they become Manchester’s future art, music and fashion stars.

See the article on the Creative Times website.