Artist Testimonials

Adam Grüning
One Thoresby Street Prize winner, 2014

"The Nottingham Open provides a great opportunity to exhibit to a wide audience amongst diverse specialisms and memorable artists. Last year was the first time I had entered the competition and on visiting the show I was astounded by the quality and nature of the work on display, and was a privilege to be chosen to exhibit alongside these artists.

Winning the One Thoresby Street Prize, a residency and exhibition beginning November 2015, topped off an already great experience, and has allowed me the time and space to develop my practice in the midst of a thriving and exciting artist community in Nottingham later this year. The competition has since been a catalyst for me to be part of artist-led exhibitions in the Midlands area and given me the confidence to apply for other open-submissions; it’s been an important marker in the progression of my practice."

Adam will begin his residency at One Thoresby Street in October which will conclude with a solo exhibition opening in the Attic on November 6th, coinciding with the closing party of this year’s Nottingham Castle Open.


Jackie Berridge
Tarpey Gallery Prize winner, 2014

"I first entered the Nottingham Castle Open in 2009, two years after completing an MA in Children's Book Illustration. I had just started making paintings again but lacked confidence in how they might be received. This new work was a fusion of the painterly qualities of my previous abstract work with the narrative skills learned on the post graduate course.

The Nottingham Castle Open seemed the perfect platform to test the water and so I was delighted to have two pieces accepted. This gave me the confidence to apply for the Summer Show at the Royal Academy where one of the pieces in the Nottingham Castle Open ('Mid Summers Night') was chosen for the RA Summer Exhibition 2010.

Since then I have been shortlisted for the Grand Prize twice, each time receiving £250. This year I was also thrilled to be awarded the Tarpey Gallery Prize giving me the opportunity to have a solo show in the beautiful and well respected Tarpey Gallery (programmed for May 2016).

There are many good reasons why I enter the Nottingham Castle Open, apart from the nil entrance fee. Firstly, appointing a new panel of judges from outside the region every year provides the competition with freshness, objectivity and excitement. It is also a privilege to be part of the engaging exhibitions programme. Lastly, I have spent most of my life in the county and I feel proud to exhibit in Nottingham Castle which has many happy childhood memories."


Lois Wallace
Ian Robinson Prize winner, 2014

"The Nottingham Castle Open 2014 featured a diverse and interesting range of work, which was well curated and selected by eminent practitioners. I had not entered this competition before and was delighted to have 4 paintings accepted, subsequently winning a prize. The competition allowed me to focus on the benefits of generating publicity for my work through taking good photographs and creating a website presence. Since the Nottingham Castle Open I have been selected for the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art. The Nottingham Castle Open 2015 will definitely be on my calendar, as it is a great opportunity to exhibit in a high quality venue in a professionally curated show."


Simon Raven & Jim Brouwer
Grand Prize winners, 2014 People's Panel Prize winners, 2014

"Being awarded both the Grand Prize and the People's Prize at Nottingham Castle Open 2015 was a great boost to both Jim Brouwer and I, enabling us to consolidate and further develop our collaborative partnership. We have developed a number of new works since winning the award, and have some exciting plans for a Detroit Techno-themed event at Nottingham Contemporary this October. I was particularly encouraged to be given an award for a video artwork (Human Freak - Queue Here, 2014) that is deliberately contentious, placing contemporary attitudes to disability in a historical context by aligning Victorian levels of inequality in the UK today with Victorian attitudes to disability, when 'Freak Shows' were popular. It was wonderful to be able to exhibit such artwork at Nottingham Castle, with its long history of rebellion. I think the Nottingham Castle Open is an essential event in that respect, allowing all-comers to apply for free to exhibit their work in such an important historic site. I know-how much time and effort goes into the selection, hanging and marketing of each Open, so I am always keen to apply, and to win was entirely unexpected. I would encourage artists working in any media to apply." – Testimonial written by Simon Raven.


Rebecca Ounstead
2012 Exhibitor

"Showing in the Nottingham Castle Open provides an invaluable insight to the structure and requirements of applying for, and exhibiting, in an Open exhibition. This insight seems particularly useful for recent graduates as it provides a platform for reaching a wider audience, and the professional experience of showing amongst diverse disciplines and practicalities that arise from showing in a public space - particularly as the Castle is not just a gallery, but also a tourist attraction, a cafe, and a historical landmark. It enabled me to have confidence in applying for other open-submission exhibitions, writing applications and also helped me to confront technicalities of showing my work within the public realm."

Thomas M. Wright
Grand Prize winner, 2010, Exhibitor, 2011

“The Nottingham Annual Open consistently brings together a diverse and eminent selection panel to shortlist artists from the open submission. For me, this process is vital to the integrity of the final show. It's about rigour. Having your work seen, critiqued and ultimately judged by highly regarded practitioners and professionals is not only beneficial to the artist but , ultimately, should lead to a much stronger, considered and provocative exhibition which any local artist would aspire to be involved in.”


Steven Ingman
GreatArt Prize winner, 2012. Exhibitor, 2011 & 2007

“I never get bored with the Castle Open as there is something new and exciting on display every year; it is a good indicator as to what is going on in the region and surrounding areas. In 2007, the Open gave me my first opportunity to exhibit in a professional gallery. This was a really exciting moment as I was new to the City, but also had an unexpected bonus as I sold the painting I exhibited. This exhibition became a benchmark for me to build upon and over the last few years I have repeatedly had work selected for display, especially as in 2012 I was fortunate to be awarded the GreatArt Prize which has allowed me to further develop my practice. Since first exhibiting in the Castle Open I have gone on to win regional awards and exhibiting nationally and internationally. I feel the Castle Open is a fantastic opportunity for both professional and amateur artists alike.”


Tracey McMaster
Joint Rufford Gallery Prize winner, 2012

“The Rufford Gallery Exhibition Prize was a tremendous opportunity for me to make a new and exciting body of work, combining site specific investigations into the history of Rufford Park whilst furthering my portrait series. The generous commission meant I could afford to be braver and bigger with my ideas and spend time making and developing my work. I felt really supported by both Rufford Gallery and Nottingham Castle throughout the exhibition process and was delighted to be working alongside David Severn (who also won the award). Professionally, the prize gave me good exposure, confidence and was the catalyst for a large amount of work. It was the best experience I could have hoped for.”


David Severn
Grand Prize winner, 2012 Joint Rufford Gallery Prize winner, 2012

“I'm a Photographer whose work is largely concerned with Nottinghamshire as a place, particularly its social history, changes in its landscape and its diverse communities today. As such, historic Nottingham Castle had always been a place I wanted to exhibit my work and somewhere I felt would further contextualize my photography, given its huge prominence in Nottingham's past and present. In 2012, the Nottingham Castle Open gave me that opportunity and the great honour of seeing recent work of my own hanging on its impressive gallery walls. I went on to win The Grand Prize and The Rufford Gallery Prize, two major accolades that have immensely benefited my career and enhanced my prospects as an artist. I was able to invest the prize money in film and travel to realise a new body of work, and I have received many interesting and varied commissions relevant to my practice partly as a result of winning the prize. "


Geoff Diego Litherland
Grand Prize winner, 2008 Exhibitor, 2009-11

“In 2008 my painting practice was at the start of an expansion of possibilities and influences. Winning an exhibition prize at the Castle Open pushed me to work with the difficult yet ambitious space of the South Hall staircase. As research for my exhibition, entitled Conjuntos, I ended up looking at the Castle’s Long Gallery and other traditional museum and country estate spaces, specifically at ways how work is hung or displayed, and as a consequence I incorporated elements of romantic landscape painting as well as notions of alchemy and mysticism. Since Conjuntos my work continues to explore such traditions of romantic landscape painting through a filter of painterly abstraction and science fiction, and I can safely say that without receiving the prize my practice would be very different now. The support from the staff at the Castle was more than just logistical and the experience proved in hindsight to be a very important springboard in my career. Although I now mostly exhibit outside of the region, I still submit work to the Nottingham Castle Open as the exhibitions are always of a high quality, and well curated."


Nick Hedderly
Tarpey Gallery Prize winner, 2011

“Being involved in the Open since 1984, when I won the first prize, has been very important to me - the Open has supported myself and many other artists by giving us a forum and space to show our work. My painting is my way of communicating and The Open has given me a voice. Having work selected has been a great help in securing exhibitions and commissions when meeting gallery owners and potential customers. It gives me a huge thrill and means a lot to me when I'm lucky enough to have work selected in my home town event.”


Colette Griffin
One Thoresby Street Residency Prize winner, 2012, 
an Robinson Prize winner, 2012 Exhibitor, 2011

“I exhibited in both the 2011 and 2012 Open receiving two prizes for my work in 2012. For three months during 2013 I was the resident artist at One Thoresby Street in Nottingham, developing and making a series of new sculptures. This concluded with my first solo exhibition in The Attic gallery space and an artist talk delivered alongside Samara Scott and Nottingham based artist Rebecca Ounstead. Both experiences were very rewarding. The residency was invaluable, it enabled my practice to expand and mature from what I had generated during my Degree. It provided studio space, peer support and a creative environment to work within. Without the Ian Robinson Prize to fund this it would not have been anywhere near as substantial or successful.”

In 2014 Colette joined Nottingham Castle Museum as Visual Arts & Exhibitions Assistant, bringing her own experiences of exhibiting in, and receiving prizes from, the Nottingham Castle Open, and will now work alongside existing Castle staff to develop the exhibition in future years and also work with selected artists.


Joy Pitts
3D prize-winner, 2004

“Winning the 3D prize in 2004 was an invaluable asset to my practice both in terms of the practical experience and as a platform for development. The winning sculpture ‘Robe’ was also part of my final show as I graduated in 2004 from BA (Hons) Fine Art, Nottingham Trent School of Art and Design. The prize provided confidence in my working processes and I continued to MA Fine Art graduating in 2005 with Distinction. Since then ‘Robe’ has been exhibited in open competitions in Wales (2008) and Norfolk (2012) as well as a recent invitation to show the sculpture in Suffolk during 2013. My practice remains focused on the study of people and their garments, and recent developments include a commission from Sir Paul Smith using his designer labels. I have also been invited to show a selection of work in Nottingham’s Lace Market Creative Quarter.”