SHOWCASE | Winners of the ‘Unlocking Creativity’ Awards Announced

SHOWCASE | Winners of the ‘Unlocking Creativity’ Awards Announced

Sir Ken 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.

Sir Ken 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~Londonderry and St Aidan’s High School in Derrylin, County Fermanagh. Community awards went to Project Sparks in Derry~Londonderry, 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.'

Sir Ken’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~Londonderry, Belfast and Armagh train thousands of teachers and young people in the creative use of digital technologies each year.

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


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.'

Kate Robinson, daughter of Sir Ken, said: 'We are delighted by the announcement of the Nerve Centre’s Unlocking Creativity Awards, and thrilled to see the well-deserving recipients.

'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, added: 'We are delighted to support the Unlocking Creativity Awards in memory of Sir Ken Robinson. 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. We congratulate all of the winners and wish them every success for the future.'




List of winners of the Unlocking Creativity Awards 2021:

Company Award



Community Award

Project Sparks, Derry~Londonderry

NACN Coole Studios, Rathcoole


Arts Awards

Sticky Fingers Arts, Newry

Stendhal Festival / ArtAbyss Children’s festival, Limavady


School Awards

Thornhill College, Derry~Londonderry

St Aidan’s HS, Derrylin, County Fermanagh


Individual Awards

Jacky Sheridan, Belfast

Ursula McHugh, Derry~Londonderry

Maurice Harron, Derry~Londonderry

Noelle McAlinden, Enniskillen