Marsh Awards 2023

The Marsh Awards for Excellence in Visual Arts Engagement celebrate the hard work and dedication of colleagues working within visual arts participation and engagement. 

The annual awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of those working in learning, participation and engagement within visual arts contexts in the UK and internationally. It celebrates the work of individuals and groups working in freelance, salaried and voluntary roles, who have brought the benefits of engaging in the arts to communities in 2022-23. 

The Awards offer winners £500 in professional development support in addition to recognition for their work. 


These year the recipients were five individuals and one team of two, which won the following awards:

José Rodrigues won the Marsh Award for Excellence in Visual Arts Engagement (International).

The following individuals won Marsh Awards for Excellence in Visual Arts Engagement (UK)

  • Clair Sargeant and Sarah Farrow Jones 
  • John Whall 
  • Louise Fraser 
  • Laura Smith-Higgins 
  • Kristianne Drake 

This year, Engage and Marsh Charitable Trust have chosen to recognise the achievements of the late Sue Clive MBE through a Lifetime Achievement Award.  

Find out about each winner below. 

José Rodrigues, Teatro Metaphora

José António de Barros Rodrigues, founder of Teatro Metaphora, a non-profit organization on the Portuguese Island of Madeira, is making a significant impact on a community struggling with socio-economic problems, lack of participation, and limited opportunities. Despite being a police officer for 23 years, José’s dedication to community development, especially among Madeira’s youth, is commendable. With a degree in Communication, Culture, and Organizations, as well as a master’s degree in Regional and Local Studies, José invests his free time in Teatro Metaphora, where he spearheads numerous educational projects and promotes artistic-environmental activities.

José’s creativity, innovative ideas, and unwavering commitment to hard work have propelled Teatro Metaphora’s reputation beyond the borders of Madeira. One of their most renowned projects, GREEN STEPS, has garnered recognition at the local, national, and international levels. José’s ability to engage people through art and creativity is unparalleled, making him a master at mobilizing communities.

Under José’s guidance since 2015, Teatro Metaphora has worked on various art installations as part of the GREEN STEPS project. Their efforts were acknowledged in 2019 when they received the prestigious “European Sustainability Award” from the European Commission and the national “Gulbenkian Prize for Sustainability” from the President of Portugal. In 2021, Teatro Metaphora was honored with the “SALTO Awards 2021” in the category of Environment & Climate Action. Additionally, this year, the GREEN STEPS project received the national award “Junta-te ao Gervásio.”

The project’s results are remarkable, with unique creations crafted in collaboration with the local community and international volunteers. José Rodrigues, driven by his passion and a big heart, tirelessly works towards community development with limited resources. His vision extends far, reaching thousands of people and transforming their lives and perspectives. Through the GREEN STEPS project’s innovative approach, José successfully engages and activates individuals on environmental issues through art and creativity.

Clair Sargeant and Sarah Farrow Jones, Far Flung Dance Theatre 

Far Flung Dance Theatre is a professional inclusive theatre company based in Plymouth. We are a collective of Disabled and non-disabled artists that include independent artists who are movers, musicians, makers, voice practitioners, performers, aerialists, access workers and access consultants. Our work is constantly evolving, shaped by the communities and the individuals that we have the privilege to collaborate with.  Our company is a stepping stone, offering work opportunities within arts projects to support the development of early careers for talented Disabled and Neurodivergent people in Plymouth. Community engagement is woven into every project we deliver, carving out inclusive and safe spaces for Disabled people to be creative and offering mentorship and support for those who wish to continue their journey and pursue the arts as a career.

Co Directors/Founders Clair Sargeant and Sarah Farrow – Jones have been working as Dance artists and makers for nearly 15 years, both sharing a passion for inclusion in the arts and ensuring disabled people have equal opportunities in the arts industry in Plymouth.  Through the creation of Far Flung both Sarah and Clair have produced and  created work with  Attik Dance, The Barbican Theatre, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Extraordinary Bodies, EBYA, Glastonbury Festival, Take A Part, With Flying Colors, The National Marine Aquarium and Vilk Collective/Squidsoup.   Sarah and Clair both believe that the success of the work comes from the people they collaborate with, the Far Flung team of artists, and the communities we are grateful to be a part of. 

Find out more by following Far Flung Theatre on Instagram and Facebook, or by visiting their website.

John Whall, Metro-Boulot-Dodo  

John Whall is a Digital Participation Artist and Producer, and the Participation and Outreach Lead at Leicester based NPO MBD (Metro Boulot Dodo). John uses digital tools and materials to creatively engage audiences with arts and contemporary culture. His work is a fusion of digital and participatory practice, through collaborative and co-creative processes, with a focus on creating together. This involves the development of processes that translate complex digital practice into accessible creative activities, which inspire and empower audiences in the creation of immersive experience. 

John was recently supported by the Arts Council England’s (ACE) Developing Your Own Creative Practice (DYCP) fund, where he explored participant-led co-creation in immersive spaces, with the aim of developing high quality digital experiences that champion the diverse creative expression of our communities. He also provides specialist sector support through digital skills, knowledge and experience, to help participatory, learning and socially engaged organisations to realise their digital ambitions. 

John supports the collective approaches to sector development and is the Specialist Interest Representative in Digital for Engage Visual Arts, Digital Champion for the East Midlands Participatory Arts Forum (EMPAF). 

Louise Fraser, Freelance Artist 

Louise K. Fraser (@lou.kin) has worked as a dyslexic neurodivergent teaching artist for the past 18 years, since graduating with MFA from Edinburgh College of Art. Her teaching and practice are based around making to think and understand, working with people to find the right way for them to engage with art. 

Lou works across Scotland devising and delivering imaginative and original workshops as well as Career-long Professional Learning (CLPL) to teachers in person and online. She devises resources for galleries, institutions, and councils, drawing on her experience as a freelance arts educator and a secondary school Art and Design teacher.

Lou continues to develop her own art practice from her studio in Leith and through residencies. Finding solution for gaps in the artworld is something she pursues through personal projects such as Teach Art, a teacher residency program that runs in line with school holidays and ‘Bridging’ an ongoing project rethinking pedagogy and our interaction with it as freelancer teaching artists.  Lou knows the importance for the work of art educators to be ‘Seen, Valued & Shared’ and organise yearly gatherings in Edinburgh for teaching artists to ‘Meet Up’. 

For the past 10 years she has had, as she describes it, the pleasure of working with the Fruitmarket Gallery on many projects that span a wide range of ages and abilities. It is with the support of the Fruitmarket Gallery that Lou states she has been able to develop different and imaginative ways of working within the gallery space and to challenge expectations of what can be done. 

Laura Smith-Higgins, 20-21 Visual Arts Centre 

Laura studied Archaeology at the University of Hull whilst working in Visitor Operations for English Heritage. Her passion for museums and galleries continued after her studies and Laura secured a position as a volunteer and a casual Museum Assistant at North Lincolnshire Museum.  

Laura secured her first heritage project officer role for the Arts Council Funded, Humber Museums Partnership, then moving on to work as a Community Archaeologist for the Heritage Lottery funded, Isle of Axholme and Hatfield Chase Landscape Partnership.  

Today, Laura is working within the Culture and Enrichment Team as the Arts and Heritage Learning and Engagement Manager. 

As part of her work, she engages with a range of artists, community groups and partners. She is responsible for creating an exciting and fun programme of activities. Always at the heart of the programme, has been a desire to work with people and support new and existing audiences.  

Laura has developed a number of community engagement projects such as Luke Jerram’s ‘Of Earth and Sky’ of which the team were awarded the Hearts for Arts Awards 2022, Best Arts Project 2022.  After a series of workshops with Leipzig based artist, Peter William Holden, students from the Engineering UTC Northern Lincolnshire, created artworks in response to Peter’s kinetic robotic sculpture. The ‘White Noise’ exhibition featured several thought-provoking gritty artworks produced by the UTC students. The gallery’s weekly Get Crafty group, a group for adults with disabilities, also created a drama and dance performance in response to Peter’s work, which is available to view in the gallery.  

Laura is looking forward to upcoming projects in particular working with youth groups and the resettled families’ network. Another ambition this year is to rebuild the formal educational offer – supporting local teachers embed art into their curriculum in a creative way.  

Kristianne Drake, In Focus Education and Development CIC 

Kristianne has worked in arts based creative education since 2007.  

They taught their first group of young people in the summer of 2007 as part of a youth justice initiative and haven’t looked back since. Over the years they have specialised in working with young people outside mainstream education, particularly those most at risk or vulnerable of committing crime and/or becoming the victims of it. They did this whilst teaching on the BA (Hons) Photography degree at Southampton Solent University and giving students volunteer experiences teaching.  

In 2015 they founded In Focus Education and Development CiC. Through this they have been lucky to deliver twice with associate partners John Hansard Gallery at the Tate Exchange programme at Tate Modern, see students work commended in the Koestler Awards, and co-write a chapter for the Monument Fellowship Foundation book on Crime and Consequence.  

They strongly believe in the voice of young people being central to the work they do ensuring the In Focus team and steering group have relevant representation and voice in the organisation. 

As an autistic nonbinary person they have developed close links to the local LGBTQIA+ youth group and following a successful Arts Council Project grant are delivering a 2-year project with them.    

As a Southampton resident they are a steering group member of the Southampton Cultural Education Partnership, the youth partnership Young Southampton and part of the University of Southampton’s Pathways to Health research group. In 2015 they set up and ran DIY Southampton 9 times until 2020. This was a free unfunded one-day festival that combined music, poetry, storytelling, and performances alongside a craft market for local makers, and creative workshops. They currently run And There It Was… a monthly free creative writing workshop for anyone who is curious! 

Sue Clive MBE

Sue Clive had a pivotal role in the development gallery education. She placed an emphasis on having conversations about and making work in response to original art.

Sue studied stage design in the 1950’s in London and then raised her family in Gloucestershire. She trained and worked as an English and art teacher in Gloucester and Manchester where she hosted artists’ residencies and took students to museums and galleries. While studying for a Masters degree, Sue became interested in children and young people engaging with contemporary art and started to work freelance in galleries across the North West, including Rochdale, Oldham and Manchester and worked on education programmes alongside Arts Council England touring exhibitions.

In the 1980s Sue set up the education programme at Cornerhouse, Manchester, and later on in the decade a pilot education programme at the Hayward Gallery, London. Sue later worked freelance as an evaluator and writer collaborating with Sara Selwood on ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’, helped to set up Engage and was a trustee of Arnolfini and Magic Me. She consistently supported colleagues working in the sector acting as a mentor and sharing her amazing knowledge and connections across the arts world.

For her services to the arts, Sue received an MBE.

Engage has commissioned memories of Sue from family, friends and colleagues, and has published these with a tribute to her work by Dr Emily Pringle. Read the article here.