Denise Gough
Actress. Artskicker. Sister of The Arts Crusader.

Denise has picked up a few gongs in her time, most recently an Olivier Award and a Critics Circle Theatre Award for ‘Best Actress’ starring in Duncan MacMillan’s award-winning play, People Places and Things.  In April, she returns to the National Theatre in a new production of Tony Kushner’s multi-award winning two-part play Angels in America. Denise plays ‘Harper Pitt’ and stars opposite Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane, James McArdle and Russell Tovey.  What a bunch of #Artskickers.

In between judging your entries, you’ll find her on telly starring in Conor McPherson’s new BBC Two thriller, Paula, in the BBC Two drama Apple Tree Yard and in Sky’s eagerly awaited mini-series Guerrilla along with more artskickers like Idris Elba, Freida Pinto, Babou Ceesay and Rory Kinnear.

Follow Denise on social media.
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Lemn Sissay MBE
Poet. Patron. Playwright. Champion. Chancellor of The University of Manchester. Total and utter Artskicker.

Having spent his teens in foster care, Lemn Sissay was seventeen when he wrote his first poetry book, which he hand-sold to the miners and mill workers of Wigan. Since then his poems have become landmarks, sculpted in granite and built from concrete, recorded on era-defining albums and declaimed in over thirty countries. He has performed to thousands of football fans at the FA Cup Final, to hundreds of thousands as the poet of the 2012 Olympics, and to millions across our TV screens and the airwaves of BBC Radio. He has become one of the nation’s best-loved voices and his latest book, Gold From The Stone is a must-read.

There is no limit to Lemn’s creativity and his passion for people and the arts. Check out his morning tweets for a daily dose of inspiration.

Follow Lemn on social media
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Streetartist. Wall painter. Globetrotter. Artskicker.

Originally from France, Zabou moved to and started painting London in 2012.

Working with a combination of stencil and freehand techniques, she likes to question society and to poke fun at conformists. Drawing inspiration from her personal experiences, Zabou takes what she sees around her and projects it to a new audience. You’ll find her work brightening up walls (and pavements) all over Hackney and East London, from Brick Lane to Broadway Market, Hackney Road and beyond.

Follow Zabou on social media.
Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | About Zabou

Sharon D. Clarke MBE
Singer. Actress. Dame.

Sharon is an English actress and singer. She is perhaps best know to Londoners as a regular star performer in the legendary Hackney Empire pantomime, including this year’s Sleeping Beauty.

Her other theatre roles include We Will Rock you, Ghost the Musical, Once On This Island, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The Amen Corner, for which she won an Olivier Award. She is perhaps best known to television audiences for her role as Lola Griffin in the medical drama Holby City.

Sharon won an MBE in the 2017 honours. She is married to Susie McKenna, writer, director and until recently creative director of the Hackney Empire. Susie is a fellow #Artskickers judge.

Follow Sharon on social media
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Deborah Curtis
Writer. Illustrator. Founder of the House of Fairytales.

Writer and illustrator Deborah Curtis founded the House of Fairytales Children’s Arts charity with her husband Gavin Turk over 10 years ago.

Together they have delivered successful projects with over 50 different partnership organisations, from hundreds of schools to festivals, museums and galleries. These have included the National Trust (four times), The Royal Shakespeare Company and Tate Modern.

Over that time the charity has worked with over 700 artists and creatives and have impacted on the lives of hundreds of thousands of children. 

Follow Deborah on social media
Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | The House of Fairy Tales

Gavin Turk

Gavin has had an active international career spanning over 25 years. He first came to public attention in 1991 with his degree show from The Royal College of Art. His work is a series of assisted readymade objects that seem commonplace but are transformed in often unexpected ways.

A prominent figure of his generation of artists, he has pioneered many forms of contemporary British sculpture now taken for granted, including the painted bronze, the waxwork, the recycled art-historical reference and the use of rubbish in art.

Turk’s installations and sculptures also deal with issues of authorship, authenticity and identity.

He doesn’t show up there very often, but you can follow Gavin on social media 😉
Twitter |

Susie McKenna
Creative Director. Writer. Director. Actor.

Susie has been Creative Director of the Hackney Empire since 2010, stepping down from that role in January 2017. She was responsible for programming, community and creative learning and was hugely influential to the success of the theatre. She will continue in a part-time role as Executive Creative Producer, enabling her to pursue a freelance career as writer, director and actor. She will also continue to write and direct the legendary Hackney Empire pantos.

She began her stage career at a very early age, appearing on stage as a dancer in her parents Ken Swane and Maureen McKenna’s variety shows. Her many theatre roles include Hair, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats and Chicago. Her TV roles include Casualty, Taggart and The Bill.

Follow Susie on social
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John Mulholland
Editor of the Observer, assistant editor of The Guardian

John Mulholland took over as editor of The Observer at the beginning of 2008.  In June 2015 he also became assistant editor, the Guardian, with a particular responsibility for live journalism across GNM.

A native of Dublin, Ireland, he has worked in journalism for over 25 years.  Previously he has been deputy editor of The Observer and media editor of the Guardian.  He is co-producer of the hugely popular TEDxObserver and Observer Ideas  events and has also presented programmes on both radio and television for the BBC and Channel 4.  He is a trustee of the charity Body & Soul.

Follow John on social media