On 11 October 2018, the charity Action for Children’s Arts (ACA) presented Stuart and Kadie Kanneh-Mason with the 2018 JM Barrie Award, recognising a lifetime’s achievement in children’s arts. ACA decided to honour Stuart and Kadie in recognition of all parents who selflessly dedicate themselves to their children’s artistic education; in this case Sheku Kanneh-Mason, ‘cellist at the Royal Wedding, and his six talented brothers and sisters.
The award was presented by Principal of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Julian Lloyd Webber, who talked about the importance of arts education and why he believes cuts to music in schools ‘do not make sense’. Of the Kanneh-Mason family he said, ‘They have defied the idea that playing music is something only posh kids do’.
ACA also presented an Outstanding Contribution Award to Sticky Fingers Arts, a ground-breaking early-years arts provider in Newry, Northern Ireland. Members’ Awards were given to Caroline Moore and Susie Hall, who deliver the inspiring arts programme at Great Ormond Street Hospital; and conductor Helen Smee, who also gave a rallying cry for saving the arts in schools.
Alongside this campaigning talk was an atmosphere of celebrating children, young people, and the artists who inspire them. The audience was treated to performances from the Kanneh-Mason family ensemble, as well as young ‘cellist Hannah McFarlane. The ceremony was compered with great skill by BAFTA Young Presenter 2016 Tianna Moore.
The awards were hosted by the Prince of Wales Theatre, a Delfont Mackintosh Theatre. ACA has been presenting the JM Barrie Award since its foundation twenty years ago. Previous winners include Michael Morpurgo OBE (2016), Dame Jacqueline Wilson (2015), Bernard Cribbins OBE (2014) and Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE (2012)