Josh Hollis

Northern Lights Awards 2014: THE WINNERS

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NL Awards

Well today is the day. The big one. The one we’ve all been waiting for. Prepare your very best drumrolls, because today we announce the winners of the inaugural Northern Lights Awards!

Since we announced the award categories and nominations over two weeks ago we have been simply blown away by the levels of support and passion from you lot in our public votes, and they played a big part in our decision-making process.

And making those decisions was an extremely tough process. We have six categories and four nominees in each, and in all honesty we wish we could give literally everyone an award. Each and every nominee has made a fantastic contribution to North East culture this year, and without all their hard work our region would be much the poorer, (and we’d be out of a job) so we’d like to take a moment to congratulate all the nominees and the countless others that just missed out on a nomination.

So without further ado, let us present to you the winners of the Northern Lights Award 2014!

Venue of the Year


The Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle

Sunderland Empire Theatre

Pop Recs Ltd, Sunderland

The Witham, Barnard Castle

WINNER: Pop Recs Ltd

This was an incredibly difficult category to call, with four fantastic nominations encompassing almost every aspect of North East culture, and with the public vote going right down to the wire it was one of the most hotly-contested categories.

But since its establishment Pop Recs has become much more than just a venue in Sunderland; it has become a real cultural hotspot, an inspiration for other local ventures, and its success has been a major factor in the city’s independent cultural resurgence.

Of course booking kick-ass gigs (and then making them free to attend) also goes a long way, and with bands like Franz Ferdinand and Maximo Park in attendance in the last 12 months, Frankie & the Heartstrings’ little record shop is now firmly entrenched as THE place in Sunderland to catch great live bands in an intimate and organic surrounding. And all this makes Pop Recs Ltd a clear winner of the Venue of the Year Award.


Best Event


Lumiere Festival, Durham

The Boilershop Steamer

Evo Emerging

The Great North Passion

WINNER: Lumiere Festival

Another incredibly strong category, and one where we could have listed dozens and dozens of nominations if we were able, with so many fantastic events happening across the region in the past twelve months.

But we had to come to a decision, and when we got together and asked the question “Which one of these made you really think ‘Wow’?”, the Lumiere Festival in Durham stood out from the crowd (and an immense response in the public vote also helped).

Attracting over 175,000 people, the event was surprising and astounding in equal measure, and it showed brilliant creativity and ambition from everyone involved. It was a truly unique experience to be a part of, and a worthy winner of the Northern Lights Award for Best Event.


Stand Out Show


Lorna Simpson @ Baltic

Catch-22 @ Northern Stage

Franz Ferdinand @ Pop Recs

Newcastle Con @ Eldon Leisure

WINNER: Catch-22 @ Northern Stage

Again we struggled to narrow this category down to just four nominees, but when we did the victor was clear. All four shows were fantastic and stood out from every other, but Catch-22 simply blew us away when it came to the North East (so good we saw it twice!), and Rachel Chavkin’s adaptation remains the highest-rated review on the Northern Lights website. Joseph Heller’s iconic novel has been a nightmare for a succession of directors to bring to the stage, but this reincarnation is as good as it gets, and the fact that it made its UK debut in Newcastle makes it even more special.


Community Award


Holmeside Coffee, Sunderland

Pop Recs Ltd, Sunderland

Pink Lane Jazz Co-op

Live Theatre

WINNER: Holmeside Coffee

Like children, all of our awards are loved equally of course, but the Community Award was one of my personal favourites, and a lot of thought went into every nomination for this category. It’s a real testament to the region that so many brilliant things are going on with community at their heart, and it’s brilliant to see the success of such brilliant ventures.

And nowhere has seen more success than Holmeside Coffee, with their Film, Book and Writing clubs giving the people of Sunderland a real avenue to get together, let their creativity flow, and drink a truly excellent brew.

And as they continue to grow in popularity and influence, the future of Holmeside Coffee looks very bright, and with the community at the heart of their work they are deserved recipients of the Northern Lights Community Award.

holmeside award

North East Success Story of the Year



The 1975

The Globe

Sarah Millican

WINNER: Sarah Millican

Twitter can be a very mean place (just search ‘Kasabian’ from last night’s Glastonbury set for an example). And after the 2013 Baftas our own Sarah Millican had to bear the brunt of that keyboard-warrior scorn, which in her own words: “was like a pin to my excitable red balloon.”

But far from content to roll over and take the unwarranted abuse, Millican drew upon her true Geordie spirit to come out fighting. From continuing her rise on the stand-up scene in 2014 to the brilliant action of wearing THAT Baftas dress to this year’s awards, Sarah has had a great year, and she deserves the Northern Lights Award for Biggest North East Success Story.

Sarah Millican

Biggest Coup for the North East


Interpol @ Riverside, Newcastle

Russell Kane @ The Witham, Barnard Castle

Snoop Dogg @ Central Square, Middlesbrough

The Lion King @ The Sunderland Empire

WINNER: Lion King @ The Sunderland Empire

The North East is a brilliant region, so it’s only natural that brilliant people want to come here. But this year has been especially strong for internationally-renowned shows, gigs and people heading here to strut their stuff.

But The Sunderland Empire (literally, as well as figuratively) stands tall above the rest, basking in the glorious coup of bringing The Lion King to Wearside, in what will surely be one of the biggest and best shows to come to the Theatre in its long and illustrious history. Back in January the announcement caused many jaws to drop in anticipation, and if bringing one of the West End’s most popular productions to our little corner of the country doesn’t win you the Northern Lights Award for the Biggest Coup, we don’t know what does!

empire award1

So there you have it, the winners of the first ever Northern Lights Awards! Congratulations to all the winners and a serious round of applause to everyone else who was nominated.

Let us know what you think about our choices by tweeting us @North_Lights or leaving us a comment below.