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Bowness resident shortlisted for new national arts competition launched for older people in Lockdown

John Hawson

An amateur musician, who lives in Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria, made the shortlist for the King Lear Prizes, a new national arts competition launched in March 2020 to encourage artistic creativity among older people during lockdown.

John Hawson beat thousands of other entries in the inaugural Prizes to make the shortlist. The competition attracted more than 14,000 entries in total in six categories from about 5,000 people across the UK and British citizens overseas.

Mr Hawson, who has lived in Bowness-on-Windermere since 1982, worked as a doctor in New Zealand, Germany and Newfoundland, before working as a GP in Windermere. He developed a liking for the guitar when he was about 15, and wrote several songs as a teenager and throughout his twenties. Despite his busy career as a GP, he enjoyed playing his guitar regularly, and continued writing and singing songs after retirement.

For Mr Hawson’s shortlisted entry ‘An Old Pair of Boots’, he will receive a certificate of commendation. His piece was inspired by his father in law, Herbert White, who served in the Navy in World War II as a teenager and became a postman in Lairg, Sutherland at the end of the War. To make the long bike journeys as a postman in Lairg’s cold winter weather a little more bearable, Mr White bought a pair of black leather boots, which he kept throughout his life, until his death in 2017. The boots, now 73 years old, currently reside in Mr Hawson’s home, which he shares with his wife.

The inaugural competition was supported by famous writers, actors, musicians and artists, such as broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, who judged the poetry category and cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, who judged the musical compositions.

Speaking about the entries in the music category, Julian Lloyd Webber said, “Many congratulations to all the composers and songwriters who entered the King Lear Prizes. The standard of the music submitted was remarkable and showed, once again, just how important music-making has been to so many people during the pandemic! The King Lear Prizes have proved what we knew already; ‘age is no barrier to brilliant creativity!’”

The competition and its mission have also been championed by older people charities, such as Age UK.

When the competition was launched earlier this year, Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, said, “Spending more time at home and apart from our family and friends inevitably means big changes to our normal activities and routines. As a result, looking after our mental and physical health is going to be very important, and taking time to be creative can be really beneficial. Having a project to focus on, like a submission for the King Lear Prizes, is fantastic and will hopefully bring a sense of achievement and much joy to everyone who takes part, and I look forward to seeing what is produced during these challenging times.”

The inaugural competition was open to people over 70 with no professional experience in the arts, to submit new short stories, poetry, short plays, solo musical compositions and art during the time they were quarantined. The Prizes take their name from Shakespeare’s play King Lear, which was written in 1605-1606 during outbreaks of the plague in London.

‘An Old Pair of Boots’ as well as the other winning and shortlisted entries, are available to view at the King Lear Prizes website www.kinglearprizes.org.uk.

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