There's something I've wanted to share for about a month now, but I've only just been given the go-ahead: I've been shortlisted for The Cooper Prize 2021!

The art prize has a blind judging process, so artists were asked to keep it to themselves and not announce anything publicly until judging had finished. Unfortunately, they forgot to tell us in the shortlist email, and so about 50-odd artists—cough including myself cough—got a bit excited and let slip on social media. So if you follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, this is old news—sorry!

The painting I've had chosen is 'Playground of the Rich and Famous' 2020, ⠀
oil on board, 45 x 45cm (the one featured at the head of this post).⠀

It's a view of the grounds and beyond at Cannon Hall, painted in late 2020. Originally the home of the Spencer and later the Spencer-Stanhope family, the gardens were designed by a lesser-known contemporary of 'Capability' Brown's, Richard Woods.

As I was walking through the park on that autumn morning, I wondered how many raucous parties had spilled out onto the lawns, and who amongst the Georgian social 'elite' had spent their leisure time at the house back in its heyday.

Cannon Hall is somewhere I have fond memories of visiting when I was a kid—from spending afternoons in the park with wasp-laced picnics, feeding the ducks and geese, and catching my first and only childhood pets in the river (3 sticklebacks); to visiting the museum with its family collection of furniture and objéts, paintings, local industrial history (mining and glassmaking), and—in my favourite room—19th Century military officers uniforms (very Mr. Ben) and an amazing diorama of the Battle of Waterloo, made up of tiny soldiers and artillery, with plenty of blood and carnage. What more could a child want?

Incidentally, I also admire the more recent custodians eco-credentials—Cannon Hall Park and Gardens were 2020 winners of the ‘Bees’ Needs Champions Awards for their work in creating a welcoming habitat for bees and insects. A much deserved Lottery Grant has allowed major restoration and improvement work to be carried out across the formal gardens and parklands over the last year, including adding a wildflower meadow to the parkland in front of the Hall. As well as looking stunning, the flowers encourage ecosystems to develop and attract new wildlife to the parklands.

In light of the (still!) ongoing restrictions caused by the COVID pandemic, this year's Cooper Prize 2021 awards ceremony will take place online—live on Facebook & YouTube, at 7pm, on Friday 19th March 2021.

The Facebook link is:

And the YouTube link is:

The ceremony will be available to watch after the live broadcast if you can't make it.

The exhibition was due to be open on the 20th March, but sadly, down to you-know-what, it will be delayed until The Cooper Gallery can open to the public again.

Keep track of updates on the Cooper Gallery website—or you can sign up to my mailing list (scroll down to the bottom of this page ▼) where I'll keep you posted.


All images and text © 2021 Julia Brown,

Except 'The Cooper Prize 2021'  banner image, courtesy of The Cooper Gallery


Art Gallery, Art Prize, Barnsley, Contemporary Oil Painting, Cooper Gallery, Cooper Prize 2021, Events, Exhibitions, Yorkshire

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