As the Biennale in Venice opens its doors for the 56th time - attracting the eyes of hundreds of thousands in the art world - a small, fairly new organisation tucked away in the North of England is beginning to punch above its own weight. The 3rd biennial Prize Exhibition mounted by New Light looks likely to be the most exciting yet thanks to a decision to remove the upper age limit that prohibited some of the best artists from applying.

New Light has launched the hunt to find the most talented contemporary artists from the North of England. The event offers some of the region’s most lucrative prizes, including the £10,000 Valeria Sykes Award, and will be held at the Bowes Museum in County Durham (often referred to as the V&A of the North) before moving to the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, and finally to London.

Artists are invited to submit work in a wide range of media including prints, drawing and painting, but excluding photography, digital imagery and work requiring an external power source. When asked what was behind the restrictions in media, New Light's Annette Petchey said, simply: "We're all about pictures. When we have more money, we would like to include sculptures but, for now, it's just pictures."

To be eligible for entry, an artist must have been born or be currently living in the North of England or have studied at degree or postgraduate level in the North.

In addition to the Valeria Sykes Prize, New Light will present the Patron’s Choice Award of £2,500; The Swinton Foundation Prize for an emerging artist offering mentoring, professional advice and exhibition opportunities; and a Printmaker’s Prize. Visitors to each of the exhibition venues will also be asked to vote for their favourite work which will receive the Visitors’ Choice Award.

Liverpool-based Josie Jenkins, winner of the Valeria Sykes Award at the last New Light Prize Exhibition, said: “Winning the Valeria Sykes Award has changed my life from many perspectives. It has resulted in a number of exhibition opportunities and the monetary aspect helped fund a residency at the Chinese European Art Center in Xiamen culminating in my 'Exploding Mountains' solo exhibition there."

This year’s judges include Leeds-born artist Norman Ackroyd CBE RA, one of Britain’s most respected contemporary printmakers; The Lord Crathorne KCVO Kst J FSA LLD, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Arts & Heritage Group; Laura Gascoigne, art reviewer for The Spectator; Matthew Hall, owner of Panter & Hall Fine Art Gallery; and Annette Petchey, CEO of New Light. They will draw up a shortlist from the submitted entries, with the works they select being displayed at the Bowes Museum from October 17, 2015 until February 7, 2016. Final judging will take place on October 16, and the prizes will be announced at the exhibition preview that evening.

When asked about the removal of the upper age limit, Annette Petchey commented: “We "cut our teeth" on the emerging talent in the region but, as artists do, we have grown up. Visitors to the three Prize Exhibition venues deserve the best there is - and we are looking forward to showing them just that."

The deadline for entries is 5pm on July 31 and artists must be over 18 years of age on that date to apply. There is an entry fee of £15. Full details and the entry form can be found at Artists can also keep up-to-date via Twitter @newlightart and


Notes to Editors:
The New Light Prize Exhibition is open to all artists who were born, live or studied for their degree or postgraduate qualification in the North of England. We define North of England as anywhere that has ever been in one of the following historic counties: Cumbria, Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland or Yorkshire.

New Light is a charity that relies on private/ corporate sponsorship and fundraising to fund its activities, and is primarily run by volunteers.

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New Light celebrates and promotes the quality of contemporary art being produced in the North of England and supports artists working in the region primarily through a major biennial touring exhibition. This is open to all Northern artists with prizes totaling over £15,000 including 'The Valeria Sykes Award' of £10,000.

To raise the profile of Northern artists, we run a number of exhibitions and events nationwide, including an annual show in London where we showcase the work of both established artists and those at the start of their artistic career. Alongside this, we offer guidance, mentoring and professional advice.

We also run an Art for All programme which is designed to make art accessible to everyone. This includes workshops with practising artists, talks with art experts, guided viewings and school projects.

Our newest initiative is the New Light Collection, a permanent collection of art illustrating the talent and expertise of some of the best artists from the North. Offered to schools, hospitals and other community-based groups free of charge; it is also made available to corporate sponsors who would like to support arts in the North of England.