Richard Seager Annual Arts Award winner to create work for English National Opera

4th September 2020 in Press

This year’s Richard Seager Annual Arts Award will see the award winner create a piece of art to be installed at the London Coliseum, home to the English National Opera.

The recipient of the Award, Bethan Yates has been selected not only due to her outstanding technical and innovative use of glass, but also her desire to learn and excel at her craft, and her willingness to collaborate with the recipient organisation to ensure they would receive something which was both bespoke, inspirational and relevant to its setting.

The Award approached the ENO to receive Bethan’s installation having been impressed by the company’s response to the shortage of medical scrubs during the outbreak of COVID-19: by re-deploying its skilled staff in the costume department, ENO made in excess of 2000 garments for keyworkers in the NHS and care sectors. They also felt that the ENO’s desire to open up the art form of opera to make it accessible to everyone mirrored the ambitions of the Award.

The Richard Seager Annual Arts Award was established in 2017 as a 20-year project to provide a living legacy to a multi-talented and inspirational man and to support innovation in the creative and visual arts, craft and design sectors – whether this is manifested through ideas, processes or the use of materials. It is targeted at emerging artists, who may be either self-taught or have completed academic/vocational courses. What makes this Award unique is that it offers the winner of this annual competition a commission to make their design for an organisation or community group which Richard’s widow Valerie feels deserves support, and to provide something of lasting value for that organisation and its members. This collaboration helps the artist, the organisation receiving the commission and the public.

Many creative individuals struggle to turn their creativity into successful businesses, and to address this, the winner is provided with bespoke business skills mentoring by Dan Goode, a respected speaker, curator and talent scout for the craft sector. The winner is supported by the Award team throughout the process and is fortunate in being able to draw on Professor Anne Boddington’s (Pro-Vice Chancellor of Kingston University) considerable experience within the arts education sector.

Bethan Yates is a contemporary artist from Swansea, Wales, working in both architectural and studio glass. Having been inspired by her Great Grandfather who repaired stained glass windows during the Second World War, Bethan studied ‘Glass: Architectural Arts’ at Swansea College of Art, UWTSD, from 2016 until last summer, when she graduated with a first-class honours degree.

Valerie Seager, Chair of the Richard Seager Award, said: ‘We were incredibly impressed by Bethan’s multi-skilled approach to her work, which incorporates textiles, painting and drawing even before she creates her beautiful pieces of stained glass. It is prescient that this is mirrored by ENO – it requires the skills of many talented and creative individuals both on stage and off to stage a production at their home, the London Coliseum. Their determination to remove all barriers to people experiencing or working in this multi-skilled and multi-sensory environment is vitally important, not only for ENO, but also because of its impact on the wider cultural heritage of this country. At a time when so many organisations are saying that nothing can be done, ENO is setting a positive example, and sending a message of hope to people working in their industry and their loyal audiences, that they will return as soon as it is possible. We cannot wait to see how Bethan collaborates with ENO and to see the final piece safely installed at this beautiful theatre.’

Bethan Yates said: ‘I am so excited to be working with the ENO and the Richard Seager Award on this amazing commission. As an artist just starting my career, I am so thankful to have been awarded this fantastic opportunity to work with the prestigious ENO, housed in the stunning London Coliseum. I can’t wait to share my design and I couldn’t have imagined a better setting for my first commission after graduating from university!’

Stuart Murphy, CEO, English National Opera, said: ‘We were honoured to have been approached by the Richard Seager Award to receive their commission this year and are excited to work with Bethan during her artistic process and see her final piece. ENO has faced this time of adversity with its typical ingenuity and imagination, and I look forward to this long held tradition of creativity being reflected in Bethan’s art when it hangs in our home at the London Coliseum.’


Notes to Editors:

English National Opera is the national opera company dedicated to one simple aim: making opera for everyone. We sing in English to be as accessible to the widest possible audience, as well as offering tickets for as little as ten pound and we create opera that feels different, more theatrical and creatively daring. We’ve been doing this to an internationally recognised standard since being founded in 1931 as Sadler’s Wells Opera.

We are determined to open up the genre: nearly half of our audiences in the 2018/19 season were first-time bookers and this season more than 10% of our bookings have been by under 30s. Our learning and participation programme ENO Baylis has reached more than 20,000 school children and community groups, and we have brought opera into schools, allowing more than 5000 schoolchildren from schools with a higher than average black or minority ethnic (BAME) background representation to experience opera.

Our talent development programme continues to nurture the careers of singers (the ENO Harewood Artist programme) and of conductors (the Charles Mackerras Fellowship). We also give free tickets to under 18s in our Balcony for opening nights, Friday and Saturday performances. Last season, the proportion of our audience with a BAME background increased from 4% to 10%. In January of last year, we announced that we would be recruiting four new members of our Chorus from a BAME background, as well as four BAME Director Observerships. This year, we announced that we will also be recruiting five new BAME string players to continue working towards our aim of making the opera industry more accessible and representative of the society in which we live.

Through our ongoing support and development of British talent, 85% of the cast in the 2018/19 Season were British or British trained, up 5% from the previous season. That’s important to us and is fundamental to our ethos of giving new talent their break.

ENO is about opera for everyone.