Young people, individuals and organisations, which demonstrate excellence in the UK’s cultural sector, were celebrated last night [1 April] at a glittering awards ceremony dedicated to the industry’s unsung heroes.

Apprentices, interns and mentors were among those recognised at the seventh annual Creative & Cultural Skills Awards, held in Cardiff for the first time at the National Museum Cardiff.

The awards are organised by Creative & Cultural Skills, an independent UK charity giving young people opportunities to work and learn in the creative industries, and are designed to shine a light on the individuals and organisations that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to skills development and learning in the sector.

This year, two young women were jointly awarded the prestigious title of ‘Apprentice of the Year’ for their exceptional commitment and ambition to learning new skills.

Judges were unable to choose between the drive shown by Fionnuala Cush, 25, in her role at Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich – an Irish language, arts and cultural centre in West Belfast, and the leadership skills of Sophie Hukin, 22, of SharpFutures in Manchester – a social enterprise that supports diverse young people into employment in the creative digital and tech sectors.

Ms Cush began her apprenticeship on the centre’s welcome desk but, after seeking out additional training and attending courses and night school, began proactively seeking greater responsibility before being appointed business development officer – a role created specifically for her.

She said: “I thoroughly enjoyed my apprenticeship at Cultúrlann and grabbed every opportunity to gain additional skills and take on more responsibility. It ended in a permanent role for me, which has been fantastic. I’d recommend an apprenticeship in this sector to anyone – it’s a brilliant opportunity to learn on the job.”

Meanwhile, Ms Hukin has helped SharpFutures close the social mobility gap for young people who want to break into the creative digital and tech sectors but have no work experience and minimal connections. Her achievements include promoting ways for young people to access employment in the sector and advising students on pathways to long-term work.

Ms Hukin added: “My apprenticeships at SharpFutures opened the door to a career in a sector I love. I enjoyed every moment of my time as an apprentice so to get this award is just the icing on the cake.

“My apprenticeships have enabled me to do a job where I am now able to advise other young people on the additional training or skills they need to get them where they want to be in their career. It’s been hugely rewarding and I’d recommend an apprenticeship to anyone.”

More than 200 people attended this year’s awards and dinner, which were presented by Angharad Lee, a freelance director of theatre, opera and film, and David Anderson, director general of National Museum Wales. Entertainment was provided by Rubicon Dance, a community dance development organisation for Cardiff and Newport.

The ceremony followed the tenth Creative & Cultural Skills National Conference, which took place on the same day in Cardiff City Hall and featured senior leaders from organisations including the Arts Council of Wales, the Wales Millennium Centre and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The conference explored the barriers to entry into the creative and cultural sector, and what stops people from thriving within it.

Recent research published by Creative & Cultural Skills[1] reveals that there were 1,175,546 people working in the creative industry[2] in the UK in 2018, with 25% of these aged between 16-29 years old, in sectors as diverse as literature (31%), performing arts (21%), visual arts (15%), cultural heritage (13%), design (13%), music (4%) and craft (3%).

Simon Dancey, chief executive of Creative & Cultural Skills, said: “To be a part of this inspirational event, surrounded by individuals and organisations working passionately to shift the persisting inequalities in the UK’s cultural sector, has been a privilege.

“Both Fionnuala and Sophie demonstrate the value apprenticeships can provide both to those who may not do well academically but thrive in the right setting, and to the creative sector generally.

“Our awards are about celebrating people who demonstrate the skills, passion and commitment required to make lasting change to the organisations they work for – regardless of their academic background.

“Our winners, and all those nominated, are further evidence of the need for more employers in the cultural sector to shift their recruitment cultures, embrace apprenticeships and improve their workforce diversity. I have no doubt the apprentices, interns and trainees nominated will all have a fantastic career ahead of them in the cultural sector.”

The winners of the 2019 Creative & Cultural Skills Awards are:

Apprentice of the Year

The Apprentice of the Year Award Celebrates apprentices working in the creative and cultural sector who have shown exceptional commitment and ambition to learn new skills


Fionnuala Cush, of Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, Belfast

Sophie Hukin, of SharpFutures, Manchester 

Training Provider of the Year

The Training Provider of the Year award celebrates a Further Education college or Higher Education institution. It is for tutors or departments that have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to training, developing innovative ideas to enable young people to gain skills and opportunities to work in the creative industries.


City of Wolverhampton College’s creative industries department

Intern of the Year

The Intern of the Year Award celebrates paid interns working in the creative and cultural sector who have shown exceptional commitment and ambition to learn new skills.


Nancy Turner of Culture Central, Birmingham

Creative Choices Award

The Creative Choices Award celebrates those who have shown continued excellence in breaking down the barriers to entry in the creative and cultural sector. This is one of our most popular awards and celebrates the great work done by the unsung heroes in our industry.


Museum Galleries Scotland

Mentor of the Year

The Mentor of the Year celebrates an individual working in the creative and cultural sector who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to enabling young people gain skills and opportunities.


Jason Camilleri, of Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Employer of the Year

The Employer of the Year Award celebrates a business, great or small, in the creative and cultural sector, who has shown innovation or continued commitment to developing the skills of its workforce.


White Light Ltd, London

Cultural Ambition Special Recognition

Cultural Ambition is a National Lottery Heritage and Welsh Government funded project, run by Creative & Cultural Skills, which aims to support young people through training placements in the cultural heritage sector. Trainees on the programme are working towards an NVQ 2 in Cultural Heritage while being based with cultural heritage partners across Wales. 

Harrison Macquire - National Waterfront Museum Swansea

The judging panel consisted of the following experts from the cultural sector:

  • Cassie Chadderton, Head of UK Theatre
  • Paul Kessell-Holland, Head of Partnerships, Education & Training Foundation
  • Kath Geraghty, Workforce Development Manager, National Theatre
  • Ahmet Ahmet, Director of Outreach and Education, The Stage
  • Susan Edwards, Glamorgan Archivist, Glamorgan Archives
  • Charlotte Dryden, CEO, Oh Yeah Music

The awards were sponsored by:

  • The Stage
  • Blue Raincoat Music
  • Chrysalis Records
  • UK Music
  • Music Academic Partnership

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