Youth Advisory Panel Members, Richard and Josh, visit the Epic Awards!

Epic is a word that is thrown around a lot these days, perhaps owing to its new more slang-based use. I, myself, have called many a night out ‘Epic’, when really it was just like the many before it. In order to restore the word to its past prestige, I decided to look up the definition and this is what I found, Epic: ‘heroic or grand in scale or character’. Now after reading this definition I realised Epic really is a word that is phenomenally hard to achieve or delegate. I found a new respect for the word and with the Epic bar set high, I traversed to MediacityUK to attend the Voluntary Arts Epic awards.

Now, Voluntary Arts is an organisation that works with just about anybody, from local arts groups to national government, with the simple aim of increasing and supporting voluntary arts opportunities across the UK. They believe that the massive voluntary cultural sector is a huge part of our national culture and is ‘absolutely vital to our health, social and economic development’. The Epic Awards were formed as a celebration of this contribution to our society, to highlight and recognise truly outstanding voluntary arts (in the broadest sense).

Reaching the BBC buildings (host of the ceremony) I was considering how ‘amateur’ voluntary arts could really stand up against the famous paintings of legends, stunningly detailed religious architecture and sculptures of the gods. Surely these arts are the only rightful heirs to be Epic?

After taking my seat and the ceremony unfolding, I can honestly say that my conception of  the arts was pulled apart and then sewn, sprayed and sang back together, by seeing the diverse and wonderful array of projects and schemes that ordinary local people have created. From unused flyover home makeovers to outdoor library trails, the variety of creations were beautiful to witness, a true match to ignite the creative mind.

Personal highlights included a well-kept secret, with Scotland Runner Up, DD8 Music, being announced winners of the new Spirit 2012 Epic Award for exceptional work with young people - a surprise which showed on their delighted faces. A music group in Kirriemuir, which is run by and for young people, DD8 is truly a youth-led project at all stages. Another moment was, of course, the unforgettable people’s choice award for Knitted Knockers which sees a national co-ordinated scheme to hand make prostheses for women who have had mastectomies or lumpectomies.

It is ideas such as these two that show the overwhelming benefit of voluntary arts over the deemed ‘high’ arts. It is not art for art’s sake, but serves a purpose. From connecting local communities to nurturing children, transforming spaces or helping out someone who you may never meet. The list is endless and reinforces the idea that through volunteering combined with arts, in whatever form you choose it to take, we can be the champions of our own communities and society.

This is what makes the Epic awards so…well... Epic! They bring to light the fantastic endeavours of everyday people, in order to inspire others and give the volunteers the recognition they deserve. Speaking with the winners of the Spirit-formed Epic Award for exceptional work with disabled people the Kent Association for the Blind Medway Art Group, member, Wendy Daws, said: ‘We can use this award as evidence of the importance of our work to possibly secure more funding for future projects’. Yet another fine example of how the legacy of the Epic Awards winners can continue to help, create and inspire those around them.

By the end of the day, I couldn’t wait to run off and buy some spray paint, tap shoes and a ball of wool and start my own voluntary arts journey. Why not look around your community and start your journey? Who knows? It might end up being Epic.