£100,000 Gulbenkian Prize Awarded To Galleries Of Justice

By Jon Pratty, Editor, 24 Hour Museum | 15 May 2003
shows Bamber Gascoigne opening the award envelope as many hold their breath

Left: Bamber Gascoigne, chairman of the 2003 judges, announces the winner with Lady Cobham, Chair, Museum Prize.

The National Centre for Citizenship and the Law in Nottingham has been awarded Britain's biggest arts accolade, the £100,000 Gulbenkian Prize.

Under the gaze of TV cameras at the newly opened Fashion and Textile Museum in London, chairman of the judges Bamber Gascoigne opened the award envelope and revealed the identity of the winners to screams of delight and scenes of jubilation from staff of the Nottingham-based museum.

Shows a photograph of lots of people looking happy and congratulating each other.

Right: the penny drops - and Galleries of Justice staff go slightly bananas with joy!

Originally a Victorian courthouse and prison, the centre won the prize 'for vigorously seizing a major new opportunity to use the museum's unique resources to enhance and enliven young people's understanding of citizenship.'

"For me, it's the people who make up the Galleries of Justice team who make the thing so worthwhile," said Tim Desmond, accepting the award for the museum.

"It's a very grim place. People have suffered there in the past. It's an empty building without people. The successes so far are down to them."

The centre works with schools, colleges and the public to promote active citizenship in ways that are of real practical value to National Curriculum studies. It's a very unusual museum which opens it's doors to young offenders, and young people at risk of offending.

"This means so much to us," said Tim Desmond, talking to the 24 Hour Museum as his ecstatic collegues celebrated around him. "To have won this is fantastic. This reception; well, it's a different world. We work in the East Midlands, working with all kinds of people from all kinds of communities. We believe so much in what we're doing, and to be recognised in this way is so important."

shows Tim Desmond speaking about the prize.

Left: Tim Desmond, Galleries of Justice - "this means so much to us."

Lady Cobham, chairman of the Museum Prize Committee, was equally thrilled by the award: "The Galleries started as a museum in an old building and developed into an outreach programme that leads into and feeds outwards from Citizenship, bringing people into museums who may not have considered visiting before."

Citizenship is not just another politically correct term, according to Lady Cobham. "We live in an era when many old people are afraid to go out, young people are completely disenfranchised from the system. We need to bring society together. This museum is all about trying to create a better quality of life for us all."

Money from the award will go towards re-interpetation and re-design of part of the museum buildings using space from the 1833 prison. A new dedicated learning zone for primary-aged children will be one of the first projects to benefit.

The Gulbenkian Prize, awarded for the first time this year, is intended to reward the most innovative and inspiring work in each part of the arts sector. The award is funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and further support comes from the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport, as well as Resource; the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries. Christopher Ondaatje CBE and Mrs Boneca Vasconcellos also supported the award.

Other projects shortlisted for the Prize were: The Natural History Museum's Darwin Centre Phase One; Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham's Collections, Communities and Memories and the RRS Discovery Renewal Programme, Dundee.

Bamber Gascoigne, leading the judging panel, summed up the evening with this point: "if the prize is to capture the attention of the public in the way other high profile awards have done, it must reward innovation, and maybe even cause controversy and surprises."

"Rotherham, and the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham, are good examples of this. I wouldn't have imagined that these two would have thought they'd been in this position six month ago. It certainly should help raise morale in the museum and gallery world, where so many people are full of energy and commitment to the profession."

You can watch a recording of the reception on the digital channel BBC Four, Friday May 16 at 7.30 pm.

What do you think of the Gulbenkian Prize? Have you visited the Galleries of Justice? Do you think another museum should have won? Please email or write to us with your views.

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