Carlisle Historic Quarter Arts Festival Commission Winning Revealed

Cumbrian glass artist Roxy Denny has been revealed as the winner of Carlisle’s second Historic Quarter Arts Festival.

Roxy’s striking glass wall art, Trinity, was inspired by Carlisle Cathedral’s windows and won over the judges who had the difficult task of picking a winner from the 40 amateur and professional artists who submitted entries for the festival.

The winning entry

The theme of the competition had been ‘Carlisle 2022’ and many of the city’s landmarks featured in the month-long exhibition of entries on Paternoster Row and around the Historic Quarter.

Businesses including hairdressers, cafes and shops such as Castle Chocolates and Northern Vacuums displayed work throughout August.

Roxy will now receive a £1,000 commission to produce a new piece of work to mark the cathedral’s 900th year.

“I’m over the moon and couldn’t be happier – I never thought about winning really and I am so looking forward to working with the cathedral,” the Cockermouth-based artist said.

The winning entry took Roxy around five days to make with three different firings in the kiln and she drew inspiration from her visits to the cathedral including incorporating colours and symbols such as a raised rose and references to its famous ceiling.

The Revd Canon Dr Benjamin Carter, who is Canon Warden at Carlisle Cathedral, was one of the competition’s three judges and was delighted to have Roxy as the eventual winner.

“We were really excited by the vibrancy and creativity of all the entrants, but felt that Roxy’s work was such an interesting  way of showing a modern twist on 900 years of heritage and life of Carlisle Cathedral. 

“This will now give us an opportunity to work with an artist to create something that will help us develop an ongoing legacy of our 900th anniversary,” he said.

Fellow judge Melanie Gardner, fine & decorative arts curator at Tullie House, felt the event had given a welcome cultural focus in Carlisle during August. 

“It has been a fantastic exhibition over the summer in Carlisle, really raising the profile of this part of the city with so many people engaging with the art by visiting all the different businesses that displayed entries along with the galleries including ourselves, Tullie House.

“The amazing range of artists that took part really shows the talent we have in the area,” she said. 

The festival was organised by Carlisle PR firm Intro which used its Paternoster Row offices as a space for the central exhibition.

Georgina Harland, of Intro, said that nearly 600 had visited and given their views on the entries.

“Having the theme of Carlisle proved to be a real talking point and some businesses that displayed work also reported that it had definitely boosted sales. It is something that we hope to build on next year,” she said.

Dr Sarah Bonner, principal lecturer of the Institute of the Arts, University of Cumbria, was also part of the judging panel and admitted that picking a winner had been far from easy.

She said: “It has been great to be part of the process and the wide variety of the work on show really shows the creativity in Carlisle and the surrounding area.

“Roxy’s winning glasswork was quite unusual and speaks to the history of the cathedral. As an artist she clearly has great potential and it will be fascinating to see what she can produce with the commission.”

The judges also gave a special commendation to one of the festival’s youngest entrants – Alyssa Saha, a 14-year-old from Cumwhitton – for her painting of the cathedral.

Roxy Denny set up RD Glass in 2008 shortly after completing an applied arts degree.

She works from her home studio near Cockermouth and her work can be seen at a number of local galleries.

Roxy with the winning entry

Roxy’s winning entry, entitled Trinity, is a piece of glass wall art which draws on aspects of the architecture of Carlisle Cathedral.

She said of her work: “I reflected on my personal experiences of Carlisle and what it means to me.

“There’s a lot of things I do love about Carlisle, but I decided to focus on the cathedral itself as the main inspiration – just because the architecture is so nice and, obviously, it’s got a lot of lovely stained glass windows.

“That became the main focus of the piece – so that’s why it has intersecting black strips – a bit like a stained glass window – and there’s a sun-like shape in it which is taken from the beautiful pattern on the cathedral ceiling.”

The Historic Quarter Arts Festival was supported by Carlisle City Council, the University of Cumbria, Hayward Tod, Discover Carlisle and Intro.