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A prize year always raises the thorny issue for us of what exactly does ‘Northern’ mean? Which artists consider themselves to be Northern? In fact, where does the North of England actually begin and end?
When we originally launched the New Light Prize Exhibition a few years ago now, we tried drawing a line across a map where we thought most people would agree the North began – but that meant, in several counties, some towns were included, some not. We then tried drawing a more wobbly line to solve that issue, but that just made things worse. Both also presented us with the additional problem of how to explain where was in and where was out.
In the end, we reverted to history and chose to define it as ‘any place that has ever been in one of the historic counties of the North: Cumbria, Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland and Yorkshire’. We know it’s not perfect and that it excludes some artists who live further North than their counterparts in, say, South Yorkshire, but it’s simply a question of having to (literally) draw the line somewhere.
The good news is that Liverpudlians or those who studied or currently live in Liverpool are officially ‘in’, as the city was actually in Lancashire until 1974. Artists can also enter if they studied for their degree or postgraduate qualification in the North of England (by our definition!) or were born there, regardless of where you live now.
Please let us know if you come up with a better solution!