A FORMER supermarket worker with Down’s Syndrome who has wowed the world of dance joined actor Ewan McGregor and poet and broadcaster Liz Lochhead as winners at the Sunday Herald’s Culture Awards in association with Edinburgh Napier University – dubbed “Scotland’s Oscars”.
Neil Price, 36, from Cumbernauld gave up his shop job to concentrate on a career in dance and it has paid off, having become a professional with the Creative Scotland-funded Independance, which offers creative movement classes to people with and without learning disabilities.
At a glittering awards ceremony on Thursday attended by over 200 people at SWG3 in Glasgow, Price took best dance performer gong ahead of
nominated Scottish Ballet trio Sophie Laplane, Kayla-Maree Tarantolo and Constance Devernay.
Ewan McGregor scooped the best film actor prize, while Morven Christie took the TV screen actor award and Grant O’Rourke was crowned the best
theatre actor for his performance as Jocky Wilson in Jocky Wilson Says. McGregor, who is currently starring in the latest series of Fargo and is
known for his roles in Trainspotting and Star Wars, said in a video message that he was honoured to receive the award, and added: “I believe my mum is going to be at the awards and that she is going to say something nice about me.”
At the awards ceremony, Carol McGregor duly obliged, saying to laughter: “Ewan said that I was going to say something nice about him but
I realised that I didn’t actually know what he has done. I had to look him up on Imdb.”
The Cultural Event of the Year gong, sponsored by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland Events Directorate, went to Celtic Connections for its impressive
array of international artists and audience figures. The Best Musical Artist award was presented to Scottish Opera Composer in Residence Lliam Paterson
and that for Best Musical Group to returning winners from 2016, Federation Of The Disco Pimp.
Author of the Year prize went to Graeme Macrae Burnet, while former Scottish Makar Liz Lochhead received this year’s Lifetime Achievement
Award. A self-deprecating Lochhead said: “Thank you so much for this. It makes me feel quite old but what it has done is made me realise that I better get
on and do something worthwhile.”
However, it was Neil Price – from being a Tesco Extra worker to dancer and now on the verge of performing his first self-choreographed piece – who set
tongues wagging. Price, who played football for Great Britain in the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, did not go down the conventional route for dancers, through mainstream schools.
He became involved with the inclusive Independ-Dance which has seen him progress from being a dance assistant to an artist. He travelled to India in 2010 to perform in the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, carried the Olympic Torch for the Athens Games in 2004 and played a part in
Price admitted he was shocked to win the award. “It felt good because I didn’t think I would win it,” he said. “I was up against dancers from the Scottish
Ballet. I am guessing they [the judges] must have seen that it is me being myself. Dancing is my life.”
Claire Reda, Indepen-dance development manager, said the group nominated him for the award because of his “commitment and progression” which has turned him into one of their leading professional dancers.
“He has not accessed a mainstream dance college or university but through his involvement in our organisation he has worked with many choreographers, worked with Scottish Ballet, performed around the world and has had many opportunities,” she said. “His technique and level of commitment and dance experience has overruled any formal qualification and we have given him that.”
Elsewhere, the One To Watch Award, sponsored by Edinburgh Napier University, went to composer and sound engineer Matthew Whiteside, while The Barn in Banchory, Aberdeenshire won the best performance arts venue gong. Another top accolade was the Judges’ Choice Award, which went to Edinburgh-based Starcatchers due to their “success and passion” in creating live performances for under fives.
Paul Bush, VisitScotland’s events director, said: “Congratulations to all the winners at this year’s Sunday Herald Scottish Culture Awards … EventScotland
is delighted to have been part of the awards, celebrating Scotland’s vibrant and world-leading events sector and the people who drive its success.”
Chris Cameron Jnr, operations manager of Cameron Presentations, one of the award sponsors, added: “The Cameron’s team would like to congratulate all winners and nominees from the Scottish Culture Awards. A great night was had by all and a suitable showcase for Scotland’s rich art scene.”
Iain McIntosh, assistant principal of Edinburgh Napier University, said:“Edinburgh Napier University are delighted to have been title partner for these awards. It was a wonderful awards ceremony which celebrated the quality and diversity of Scottish culture.
The opportunity to meet the winners and those shortlisted highlighted how exceptional the talent is across Scotland. We look forward to next year and being part of the celebrations.”