Triptych Of Portraits Wins 2011 John Byrne Award

Last night (30 November 2011), at a ceremony at The Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, a team of sixth year pupils from St. Thomas of Aquin's High School won the John Byrne Award 2011 for their triptych of portraits inspired by triptychs from early Renaissance painters.
The artist, playwright and writer, John Byrne, presented the winning team with an amazing £7000 cheque, £5000 of which will be donated to one or more social projects chosen by the winners. The remaining £2000 will be spent on personal development for the team.

Alex Wallace, former head teacher at James Gillespie's High School, chair of the John Byrne Award judging panel, said: The overriding theme of The John Byrne Award is 'Inspiring Values for Today'.  It was set up to encourage sixth year [17/18] students attending school in Edinburgh, to consider values in the context of the world that they know and live in and to examine and challenge them using any media of their choosing.  

“The nature of this challenge is tremendously important at this time, particularly to these young people, and there was a phenomenal depth and breadth of skill demonstrated in all of the presentations we saw.  There was also a diverse array of media used, from art work to original music and film, moving away from the over dominance in writing in schools today.”

Eleven teams, including two solo entrants, from eight schools from across Edinburgh took part.  They were asked to respond to a piece of text related to the values theme, 'The Stimulus'. This year, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of The King James Bible, the stimulus was an extract from the King James version – The Sermon on the Plain, from The Gospel According to Luke, Chapter 6, vs 17-49.

Alex Wallace added: “It was not an easy job picking the winner and it wasn't a unanimous decision because of the high level of excellent entries. However, overall we felt that the tryptych from St. Thomas of Aquin's High School was remarkable in terms of its collaborative output.  The team understood the brief, fulfilled the criteria and gave a remarkably polished presentation to back up their work.”  

The paintings from St. Thomas of Aquin's were a collaborative effort with four team members involved in painting each portrait.  The first is of an old man representing the failure of society towards old people. The second is a young person wearing expensive headphones representing materialism and the third portrait is of flowers in the hair of a young girl representing naturalism and the way forward for communities.

Three teams were Highly Commended for their presentations and won runners up awards:
-    Boroughmuir High School, for their collage of painting and mixed media inspired by issues of corruption and greed, together with a film charting the creation of the artwork
-    Currie High School, who composed a song, using text from the bible, and produced a music video looking at God's creation of nature and the need to look at oneself to make a difference
-    James Gillespie's High School, for their 15 minute musical composition and  supporting artwork with a team of Christians and atheists stimulating debate on the passage from The Sermon on the Plain.  
Each team received prizes of £1000.   A brief synopsis of all eleven entries can be seen in the Notes to Editors below.

John Byrne was joined on this year's judging panel by writer and broadcaster Richard Holloway, political journalist and theatre critic Joyce McMillan, former head teacher at James Gillespie's High School Alex Wallace, Scotland international rugby player Ruaridh Jackson and snowsports instructor Neil Paterson.

Through discussion and consensus they were looking for an independent response to 'The Stimulus' that reflected competitors' thoughts, their study and the conclusions they have drawn, with reason, clarity and imagination. The judges also wanted to be clear about the values that teams and individuals had chosen, and to be persuaded that they would stand up to the choices that they had made. However students were not judged on the values that they had chosen.

The John Byrne Award is privately funded.  The sponsor wishes to acknowledge the support and advice provided by the Children and Families Department of the City of Edinburgh Council and, in particular, Councillor Marilyne MacLaren.

City Education Leader Cllr Marilyne MacLaren said: “The John Byrne Award is going from strength to strength and I was delighted to see so many fantastic entries from our pupils.  There's a huge pool of talent out there and I know the judges had a tough time picking a winner but the St Thomas of Aquin's project was stunning.  It explored the subject exceptionally well and the team are deserving winners.”

For further information on the 2011 John Byrne Award and to find out how last year's winners used their prize money, please visit:


Notes to Editors :
Brief Synopis of 2011 entries

Eleven teams, including two solo entrants, from eight schools from across Edinburgh took part.  The Schools represented were Boroughmuir High School, Currie High School, James Gillespie's High School, Portobello High School, Queensferry High School, Royal High School, St. Thomas of Aquin's High School and Liberton High School.

Winning team – St. Thomas of Aquin's High School with three runner up Commendations going to Boroughmuir High School Team 1, Currie High School Team 2 and James Gillespie's High School Team 2.

Boroughmuir High School – Team 1 – Film charting the creation of a large mixed media collage

Team – Ailsa Bruce, Nuala Harrison, Rachael Hood, Catherine McGinley & Morag Taylor

This team looked at issues of corruption and greed. Their artwork was a mixture of painting and collage and at it's centre was a puppeteer representing greed -one half of him dark representing corporate greed and the other light representing community and a more generous spirit. In their presentation they presented a film charting the creation of their artwork.

Boroughmuir High School – Team 2 – Short film & presentation

Team – Tom Bird, Imran Hafeez, Alexander Herbert, Lydia Martin (had been to Uganda), Lewia Walker & Fraser White

This entry related the stimulus to current perceptions of society. The entry consisted of a film with originally composed piano music. It was in two parts, showing riots in Britain and Syria followed by a piece reflecting on how society could be improved depicting someone in thought on top of Arthur Seat. One of the entrants Lydia Martin drew on her experience in Uganda as input for this.

Currrie High School – Team 1 – Film with original music and interviews

Team – Shaun Miller, Connor McKay, Mairi Ferrigan & Ewan Cooper

Taking themes from the current economic malaise.  They also interviewed people demonstrating in St Andrews Square for their take on society's current values. Original music.

Currie High School – Team 2 – Song and music video

Team – Bryony Jones, Hayley Gray, Zoe McRae, Katie Ross, Lindsey Hunter

This team wrote a song using text from the bible and produced a music video. Looked at God's creation of nature and the need to look at oneself to make a difference.

James Gillespie's High School – Team 1 – DVD with original music, artworks and poems

Joanna M, Johanna W, Struan J, Stephen H, Sheila P & Nick R

This team looked at redemption and rejuvenation and materialism and hypocrisy as their critical poin.  They created two pieces of art – symbolic through trees bursting into life again after autumn and winter.  They also wrote three poems, two of the poems compliment the paintings while the other is more political.  
James Gillespie's High School – Team 2 – artwork, music composition & summary

Team – Emily Trucco, Mengye Li, Morag Williams, Zak Corney & Amil Mair

A full-scale 15 minute composition for guitar, violin, piano and other instruments.  The music referred to particular lines of verse with the violin using choppy and aggressive bowing representing the state of the nation before the sermon.
They also created a painting using acrylic and watercolour to represent the hard side of society we're experiencing now and a softer watercolour paint for the other side as we emerge with better values.

In the team Zak had been to India and Amil Mair is a Christian from India. and drew from his experience of society and values there. The team were a mix of Christians and athesists and it lead to interesting discussion about The Sermon On The Plain

Liberton High School  – Collage & supporting statement

Team – Tanya Keane,

Collage of superficial imagery from the media. Tanya's interpretation was a direct straighforward collage of materialistic images from magazines and the media to represent society's obsession with materialism.

Portobello High School  – Music video

Team – Keiran Burnett, Alice Byrne, Moray Fraser, Ross McWhirter & Jennifer Turnbull

An anti establishment video, an anarchic piece about ditching the King James Bible and rediscovering it  with mentions of Nietzhse and the ubermensh

Royal High School – DVD & summary

Team – Sean Reddie, Scott Pearce, Catherine Robertson, Ross Parker-Knowles, Nicole Laidlaw & Hannah Smith

Focused on the golden rule. Looked at selflessness and forgiveness and equality. Used an Arcade Fire song.

St. Thomas of Aquin's High School – Artworks & summary

Team – Matilda Whitby, Alex Mainnie, Julieanne Fernandez, Holly Semple, Deepika Sharma, Maria Lannone, Zynaab Noor, Louise Jackson, Gregory Dommett, Aaron Wright, Luke Paxton & Matthew Durkin

Produced a triptych of portraits inspired by early rennaissance triptychs.  Each portrait was painted by four team members.
Portrait one: Old man representing the failure of society towards old people
Portrait two: a young person wearing expensive headphones to respresent materialism
Portrait three: flowers in the hair of a young girl representing naturalism and the way forward for communities

This team also interviewed the grandfather of one of the presenters for inspiration on the portrait of the old man.

Queensferry High School  – DVD & supporting statement

Team – Marian Montanha

This solo project was 20 minute DVD uniting the stimulus with themes from Anne Marie Di Mambro's play The Letterbox.

Why John Byrne?
The award is named after prominent Scottish artist, playwright and writer John Byrne, as the sponsor's choice of a man whom is described as “a delight to be with” and “inspiring”.  The sponsor sees John as a man who has made the most of his diverse creative talents throughout his career and consequently has given, and continues to give, great pleasure and more importantly, inspiration to people of all ages from all walks of society.
The Stimulus – 2010
Last year, the stimulus was the speech given by Jimmy Reid, trade union activist, on the occasion of his inauguration as Rector of Glasgow University in 1972.

Contact: Paddy Cuthbert
Phone: 07968699636