THE force proved to be with one art student when his Star Wars-style designs captured the attention of a town’s mayor.

Ethan Platts was one of more than 40 Darlington College level 2 and level 3 diploma in art and design students challenged to come up with a graphic for the mayor’s ball.

The unusual brief from Darlington’s mayor Chris McEwan sought to meld a 1980s theme with COVID-19 lockdown heroes.

Ethan, 16, of Leyburn, took a sci-fi approach which the mayor loved. Coun McEwan said: “It was very well done and it will be ideal for what will probably have to be a virtual mayor’s ball.

“The standard was extremely high for what was a challenging brief and choosing the winners was very difficult. I take my hat off to all the students who are having to learn remotely which does make it more difficult to keep motivated.

“I loved the 1980s, particularly the music. I was a big fan of ABC and the lead singer Martin Fry who I met once at the Civic Theatre. At the same time I wanted to recognise our key workers, the people who have been the glue during the pandemic, not just the NHS staff but also the police, postal staff, teachers, binmen and shop workers who have kept the country going.”

Ethan said: “It was an interesting brief and I came up with the idea after doing some research and seeing a Star Wars poster. I certainly didn’t expect to win and am really happy. It will be great for my portfolio. I have loved art since primary school and while I’m not sure about a career yet I hope it will have something to do with art and design.”

In joint second place were Jamie Rankin, 16 and Parker Smith, 18, both of Darlington, who took a disco view of the brief.

Lecturer Pippa Eeles said: “I think the students did a remarkable job given they had to marry the 80s theme with a contemporary one. They took many images from the mayor’s Facebook page and had to research a period which to them, of course, was last century. They came up with some fabulous ideas.”

Lecturer Amy Minto said: “I have been really impressed by the creative solutions the students came up with for the mayor’s ball, not only was it a double theme but for many their first client and professional outcome. The students were limited to conducting research at home and college due to the pandemic and they managed exceptionally well.”

Coun McEwan added: “We traditionally ask the college to do the designs for the mayor’s ball because they always do such a great job and this year is no exception and particularly impressive given the challenges of COVID.”

He said the pandemic could lead to a virtual mayor’s ball and if it did this would involve an online event that would include around 1,000 guests, entertainment, a live virtual auction and local restaurants delivering food to people’s homes as part of the ticket price to raise proceeds for his chosen charities.

For more information on opportunities at Darlington College visit www.darlington.ac.uk.