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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lightbox, Woking, United Kingdom

Lightbox gallery and museum wins £100,000 arts prize
Marks Barfield’s The Lightbox has won the UK’s most prestigious arts award, The Art Fund Prize 2008. The £100,000 prize was awarded to The Lightbox gallery and museum during an awards ceremony at the headquarters of The Royal institute of British Architects in London on Thursday 22 May. The prize is awarded to the museum or gallery whose project has demonstrated the most originality, imagination and excellence in the last year.

The project was initiated in 1993 by 70 local people who were determined to create a gallery and museum in the town. It has since grown in size and ambition, raising almost £7 million to complete the project. When the stunning new building opened in September 2007, their vision became a reality.

“We are over the moon,” said Marilyn Scott, Director of The Lightbox. “To have won such a prestigious award as The Art Fund Prize so soon after opening is beyond our wildest dreams. We would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard for The Lightbox over the last 15 years, from volunteers and staff to the architects, and the project team, our trustees, our sponsors and supporters.”

Members of the public had been invited to explain on The Art Fund Prize website why they think The Lightbox should win. Their comments have praised the inspirational nature of the project, the friendliness of staff and volunteers, the design of the building and the quality of the exhibitions and workshops. Many felt that since opening The Lightbox has already helped transform the cultural landscape of the Woking area, as well as people’s impressions of the town.

The Art Fund Prize judges were impressed by a visit to The Lightbox in February. Chairperson of the panel, the broadcaster Sue MacGregor said that she particularly enjoyed‘Woking’s Story,’ the museum of the town’s history. She highlighted displays on the Shah Jehan Mosque, the first to be built in the UK, and Brookwood Cemetery, used as a London overflow in the 19th century. “This award is a testament to the vision of a group of Woking residents who were determined to create a cultural centre for the arts and heritage in their town,” added Marilyn Scott. “Part of our mission has been to change the perceptions that Woking has nothing to offer and that it has no history. We believe that with the creation of The Lightbox both of these myths have been dispelled.”

A short list of four finalists was announced in April, after a judging panel whittled down competition from a long list of ten. The other short listed contestants were the Wellcome Collection in London, the Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick, Scotland and The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, for the slavery exhibition ‘Breaking the Chains.’
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