Lynn artist scoops prestigious award

Annabelle DicksonA young artist from the home town of a prestigious regional art competition clinched first prize at its 40th anniversary exhibition at the weekend.Lee Madgwick , 28, who grew up in King's Lynn where the annual Eastern Open is hosted, beat almost 800 entries from artists in seven counties, taking home a �3,000 prize.Annabelle Dickson

A young artist from the home town of a prestigious regional art competition clinched first prize at its 40th anniversary exhibition at the weekend.

Lee Madgwick , 28, who grew up in King's Lynn where the annual Eastern Open is hosted, beat almost 800 entries from artists in seven counties, taking home a �3,000 prize.

The Eastern Open is second only to the summer exhibition at the Royal Academy as an open arts competition in the UK.

Hundreds turned out for the exhibition launch on Saturday, which was expanded this year in celebration of its 40 years.

Mr Madgwick, who went to Springwood High School, said he was always interested in art from a young age and visited the town's arts centre galleries as a youngster.

Like many local artists he submitted work year after year. Although his work has been on show he had never won a prize.

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He said: 'I have always loved art and I'm a full time artist. It looks as though more artists have got together for the 40th year. It was a really nice surprise.

'It is one of the best opens in the country. For a market town that is really good. It's a real honour to be part of it.'

The competition started in just Norfolk with the strapline 'an opportunity for those not yet ready for a solo show to get a chance to exhibit.'

Liz Falconbridge, arts and education manager at the King's Lynn Arts Centre said: 'How things have changed.

'The Eastern Open, certainly in the 21st Century, is viewed as a hotbed for talent when seeking regional artists for one-person exhibitions.

'Now it covers seven counties and attracts new artists and audiences to enjoy the special attractions of King's Lynn and West

Norfolk from far afield - even from 'up-London'. Surely this is a measure of our success?'

Joan Wooll, 64, local artist and art teacher, has been a long-standing exhibitor at the Eastern Open.

She said: 'I remember being very pleased to be in it the first time and I've always been very pleased since.

'It is obviously much bigger because there is more space.'

Nicholas Usherwood, one of the competition judges, an art historian, writer, curator and exhibition organiser, said: 'The large entry to this 40th year of the Eastern Open presented a remarkable richness and variety of achievement, one that paid huge tribute to the very high level of activity in the East Anglian region.

The work of the Eastern Open winners will be on display at the King's Lynn Arts Centre until May 16. More gallery space was devoted to the 40th anniversary exhibition and there are 189 works to see.