First students benefit from Ronald Searle prizes

Published: 23 June 2008 at 14:26

Celebrated former student gives creative awards to budding art students.

As part of the year long programme of 150 year anniversary celebrations, Anglia Ruskin University has presented the first awards to students of Cambridge School of Art who entered the Searle Award for Creativity.

The annual competition, initiated by the great artist and alumnus of Anglia Ruskin University Ronald Searle, has been devised to recognise excellence in a range of artistic disciplines including fine art, illustration, digital art and graphic design, film or video, photography, animation and 3D design.

The highly original theme of this first competition was ‘Petersfield’, an area of Cambridge which encompasses both the place of Searle’s birth, and where he lived as a young artist attending Cambridge School of Art.

The winner of the Searle Award for Creativity 2008 is BA (Hons) Illustration student, Jennifer Smith (21) who was praised for her ‘inventive, personal, narrative response’ which was described as being ‘lyrical and beautifully finished’. Her work was presented in the form of a book.

The judges highlighted the organic relationship of collages to narrative and the very imaginative use of traditional materials.  Speaking about the prize win, she said:

"I wanted to explore a different side to life in Petersfield as I was intrigued by the strange and shadowy world that hangs above the areas tightly woven backstreets.  This became the inspiration for my book, as it follows the lonely figure of a woman in her nightdress wandering the rooftops of Petersfield under a moonlit sky."

"Getting the judges’ approval of my work is really immensely satisfying.  This has been a great confidence boost for me, and I am sure that it will have a very positive effect on my work."

Ronald Searle, who now lives in France, was not able to be at the awards ceremony but in his message to the award winner, he identified that life for graduating students is tough. He said:

"You may have killed yourself to achieve this accolade but now comes the tough part: the battle with the world beyond art school.  Courage!  You’ll need it as you encounter the cynical side of trying to survive as an artist and whilst still trying to retain some sort of integrity in the face of brutal marketing and a public mostly led by the nose.  Either way, this is a splendid step in the right direction and I, for one as a battered and hardened ex-Cambridge Art School slogger, am proud that there is some vital talent busting out of the Anglia Ruskin art egg."

Ronald Searle has been described as the greatest graphic artist of our time. His distinctive brand of visual commentary and satire has been familiar to generations through seven decades of continuous output. 

The prize for the top work was £3000. Two awards of £500 were also presented for highly commended work. 

These went to Monika Umba (31), a BA (Hons) Illustration and Animation student, and Patsy Rathbone (37), a BA (Hons) Fine Art student who produced a quirky film, where the central theme of riding a cycle around the boundaries of Petersfield illustrated the diversity of the area.

The three students live in the Cambridge area.

Professor Anthony Harrild, Head of Cambridge School of Art added:

"This inaugural event has been an enormous success which means that we hope to make it an annual highlight of Cambridge School of Art’s events calendar. Ronald Searle is the true inspiration behind the competition and thanks to his own personal donation and support, we have been able to make the event appeal to a great many of our students."

All six shortlisted entrants will now see their work on display as part of the Degree Show in the Ruskin Gallery until 3 July. The Ruskin Gallery is open to the public Monday – Friday 10-9pm and on Saturday from 10-5pm.

For more information about the awards, please contact Caroline Hyde, Business Development Manager for Cultural and Creative Industries on 0845 196 2995 or