Gavin Turk
Susie McKenna
Lemn Sissay

Renell Shaw
Songwriter. Musician. Producer. Artskicker.

Renell has built an exceptional resume of work in a myriad of musical fields, collaborating, recording and touring alongside artists such as Rudimental, Jess Glynne, Skepta, Maverick Sabre, Aloe Blacc, Nitin Sawhney and Speech Debelle amongst many others.

From a very early age (13), he’s had stints as a consultant on the creative teams at the Hackney Empire Theatre and London Philharmonic Orchestra and is a passionate believer in the importance of the creative arts for young people.“I’m supporting the Artskickers Awards because I feel it’s important to celebrate and support the art and creative expression that the next generation bring to the table, they reflect the times.”

Follow Renell on social media
Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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

Denise has picked up a few gongs in her time, most recently her second Olivier Award for best supporting actress inAngels in America, for which she’s also picked up a TONY nomination. Her performance in Duncan MacMillan’s, People Places and Things won her an Olivier for Best Actress in 2016. 

Currently treading the boards on Broadway with the National Theatre’s 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 and James McArdle.  What a bunch of #Artskickers.

In between judging your entries, you’ll find her on telly starring in Conor McPherson’s 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.

On 2017 Awards: “Hands down, the best, most meaningful awards ceremony I’ve ever been to.”

Follow Denise on social media.
Twitter | Instagram

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 2017’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
Twitter | Facebook

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
Twitter | Instagram

John Mulholland
Editor of the The Guardian USA

John Mulholland took over as editor of The Guardian USA in April 2018, after 10 years editing The Observer.

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.

On 2017 Awards: “Impressive, elegant, moving…a brilliant effort recognising brilliant efforts.”

Follow John on social media

Yinka Shonibare

Turner Prize nominee in 2004, Yinka’s “Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle” was unveiled in Trafalgar Square in 2010 and was the first Fourth Plinth artwork commission by a black British artist.

He is the founder of Guest Projects in Hackney, which enables artists of any discipline to access free exhibition space in East London. It’s a laboratory of ideas, a testing ground for new thoughts and actions, “a space to experiment and to fail”.

Yinka is currently Chief #Artskicker and joins our advisory panel for 2018.

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
Twitter | Facebook