The filmmakers and musicians of Beacon Hill Arts are celebrating after winning a prestigious Historic England Angel Award. The announcement came at a glittering awards ceremony in London on Monday 20th November.

The Historic England Angel Awards were founded by Andrew Lloyd Webber and are co-funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation. Since 2011 these annual awards have celebrated the efforts of local people, either individuals or groups, who have saved historic buildings and places.

Beacon Hill Arts supports talented filmmakers and artists who have learning difficulties, autism and additional needs. Working in partnership with Newcastle Castle, the filmmaking team were asked to create three films that focused on the lives of characters from the castle’s past. The musicians then created a soundtrack to the films and performed it, alongside a premiere of the films, at Playhouse Whitley Bay.

The films and music were woven into an interactive presentation, which was also designed by project members, and is now located proudly in Newcastle Castle’s visitor’s centre.

The project was supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund with further essential support from the Joyce Trust and the Hadrian Trust.

All the filmmakers were all graduates of Beacon Hill Arts’ talent development programme: Viewfinder, which is supported by Spirit of 2012 Trust.

On winning the award, young filmmaker Rowan Simpson said:

“Well for me personally it was amazing and outstanding. When they opened the golden envelope and announced Beacon Hill Arts as the winners of the category I was in total shock of utter amazement! I am incredibly proud of the project and the whole team.

The project ‘Hidden Histories’ brings the past to life for future generations to come, and shines a light on the North East. We are dispelling myths and misconceptions surrounding disabled people. Here at Beacon Hill Arts we are all one team, we love creative filmmaking and we leave our labels behind.”

His colleague Katelyn McKie added:

“It was really awesome winning this award. It’s very important we have the opportunity to do things we are passionate about in our lives with a team of fantastic staff who can support, teach, inspire and work with us.

It’s also important because it is so interesting to learn about our history and historic buildings. I enjoyed learning about Mary Bruce’s life and what it was really like all those years ago.”

Andrew Coats, Creative Director at Beacon Hill Arts said:

“It was a genuinely inspiring night and such a privilege to be included with lot of wonderful heritage projects. It was great that our young filmmakers were recognised as creative professionals in their own right.”

David Silk, Learning Officer at Newcastle Castle said

“We’re so pleased to hear about the award – it’s well deserved, as all the young people involved worked so hard on this project and created some fantastic work bringing to life some real rogues from the history of their area. It’s great to see that recognised, and we are very proud to have been a part of the project!”

Andrew Lloyd Webber said:

“Congratulations to all the winners! I’m delighted that these awards shine a spotlight on people who work tirelessly to bring our heritage back to life in such a vibrant way.”

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: “The Historic England Angel Awards show how the historic environment is for everyone… The winners are breathing new life into our historic places.”

Chaired by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the 2017 judging panel comprised historian Bettany Hughes, TV’s Restoration Man George Clarke, the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Baroness Lola Young and Historic England’s Chief Executive Duncan Wilson.

The winners were announced and presented with their awards at a glittering ceremony at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London on 20 November 2017.