The 2017/18 judges reflected a wide range of professions and individuals within the art world.

Charming Baker

With solo shows in London and New York; collaborations with such names as Paul Smith (the result of which was displayed in the V&A) and Penguin Books; plus a recent stint as the co-presenter of Sky Arts ‘The Art Show’, Charming is very highly-regarded in the contemporary art world. His work explores well-trodden and intrinsically linked themes: life, love, death, terror, joy, despair… with an underlying reference to the classics and a dark humour threaded throughout.

On becoming a judge, Charming said, “I’m thrilled to have been asked to be a part of the New Light Prize Exhibition. It was the North that helped fuel my desire to be an artist. A trip from my secondary school in Ripon to see a Henry Moore exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, discovering artists such as David Hockney at my first art school in Harrogate, and the spirt of the teachers at that school among other things really formed the basis for everything I did in the future. To be able to give something back to the place that gave me so much, and to encourage and support Northern artists is very important to me.”


Thom Hetherington

Thom is a speaker, consultant and writer on art and culture in the North of England. As CEO of Holden Media he organises world class Northern events including Buy Art Fair and The Manchester Contemporary. Thom also has an interest in Hetherington’s Framers, which frames for nationally and internationally significant artists, galleries and private collectors.

Thom is a board member for Castlefield Gallery and has held previous board roles at Urbis. As a consultant, Thom also advises institutions including The Whitworth, Manchester International Festival and Manchester Museum.

Thom has written about Northern culture for titles ranging the Guardian to the FT, as well as appearing on BBC1 Breakfast News and BBC Radio 4. Thom works closely with the charity Action Against Hunger, and has helped to establish the Masterpiece Dinner at The Whitworth.

In January 2017, Thom was named ‘Cultural Icon’ at the Manchester Evening News City Life Awards.


Reyahn King

Reyahn has worked in museums, galleries and heritage for over two decades at internationally significant institutions including National Museums Liverpool and Birmingham Museums Trust before becoming Chief Executive at York Museums Trust.

As Director of Art Galleries at National Museums Liverpool, Reyahn chaired the biennial John Moores Painting Prize and has also been a juror for the Liverpool Art Prize. As a leader and as an art curator, she has a reputation in museums based on quality programming and gallery projects that increase and diversify audiences.

Now at York, she is passionate about building on York Museums Trust’s strengths to make York Art Gallery a principal Northern venue for exciting art exhibitions, and CoCA a world class Centre of Ceramic Art. Under Reyahn’s leadership, York Art Gallery was recently nominated for the European Museum of the Year 2017.


Emerson Mayes (CEO) is a Yorkshire-born artist who has enjoyed that rarest of things; both critical and commercial success since leaving Leeds Metropolitan University in 1994. He has won numerous awards throughout his career resulting in an ever-growing number of collectors acquiring his paintings, drawings and drypoints. As a result, his work can be found in many Public, Private and Corporate collections worldwide, including the House of Lords and The National Trust.

Emerson is passionate about New Light, its work and its aims, and knows the charity inside out, having previously been a mentor to the winning artist, a committee member and a Director, before taking on the role of CEO. His working life as a practising artist, alongside the experience he has of New Light, puts him in a unique position as a judge.

Frances Spalding CBE

A renowned art historian, critic and biographer, Frances Spalding CBE has a specialist interest in 20th century British art and first established her reputation with the publication of the book ‘Roger Fry: Art and Life’. She went on to write well-received books on the lives of the artists Vanessa Bell, John Minton, Duncan Grant, Gwen Raverat and John and Myfanwy Piper, as well as a biography of the poet Stevie Smith. Her survey history, ‘British Art since 1900’, in the Thames & Hudson World of Art series, has been widely used in schools, colleges and universities, and in the mid-1990s she was commissioned by Tate to write a centenary history of this national institution.

Between 2000 and 2015, Frances taught at Newcastle University, becoming Professor of Art History. She acted as Editor of The Burlington Magazine, 2015-16, and is now is a Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art and, in 2005, was made a Companion of the British Empire.


Anna Wilkinson 

Anna studied BA Hons Fine Art Printmaking at Central Saint Martins, London and postgraduate diploma at Newcastle University. She has been Director of Northern Print since 1989.

Northern Print is the regional centre for printmaking in North East England and hosts the Northern Print Biennale, which includes an open exhibition showing across three galleries and a programme of exhibitions, residencies, commissions, talks and events taking place in 13 venues across the city. There is an open access studio used by over 200 artists, an education studio used by schools and community groups, and a gallery which showcases the best in regional, national and international printmaking.

Other successes for Northern Print include developing links for exchanges and residencies with a group of artists/printmakers in Nagoya, Japan; delivering the Cultural Sector Development initiative which managed £64k of professional development training to artists at Northern Print; and moving to new purpose-built premises in Newcastle’s cultural quarter.