Talent spotting.

Kate Feld

Northwest artist Leo Fitzmaurice, who has exhibited extensively in Manchester, is a finalist for the high-profile Northern Art Prize. Kate Feld talks to the artist about his thoughtful and engaging work. Also, young people curate a new exhibition at Cornerhouse.

Prizes and competitions are part of the machinery that keeps the art industry running. Yes, some of the more cynical souls among us might whisper that they’re all marketing wheezes cooked up to get artists more exposure. To which we would reply: and what, exactly, is wrong with that? In our book, anything that gets good art to a bigger audience has a lot going for it. And anything that gets good Northern art to a bigger audience is more than all right by us.

In just five years the Northern Art Prize has clearly demonstrated the range and vitality of art from the North, and become something of a proving ground for edgy and intriguing artists. This year is no exception, with multimedia artist Liadin Cooke, Leo Fitzmaurice, abstract painter James Hugonin and Richard Rigg competing for the £16,500 top prize.

The sole Northwest finalist is Fitzmaurice, who lives in The Wirral but studied in Manchester and cut his teeth on the city’s art scene. He has a strong association with Castlefield Gallery, and also exhibited at CUBE last year. We’ve been fans of his work for ages here at Creative Tourist (we interviewed him in 2010, and wrote about him here ) He uses found and unlikely materials to create works that stretch our perception of the everyday, or provide an understated, wry comment on modern society. Discarded and sun-faded Coke cans ranged in a gradation of colour become suddenly interesting; flyers arranged in patterns turn litter into art. A series of playful photographs taken with his mobile phone demonstrate his keen sense for composition and also show that  art is more about who’s pressing the button than professional standard kit. For the Northern Art Prize Show, Fitzmaurice meticulously rehung 18th and 19th Century paintings from Leeds Art Gallery’s collection so their horizons line up perfectly, creating a landscape that never existed.

It’s actually Fitzmaurice’s third time being longlisted for the prize, and when he looked at the strength of this year’s longlist, he says, “I thought, there’s no way I’ll get through.” He may be admirably humble, but Fitzmaurice is a talented and hardworking artist who has steadily grown in stature over the last several years, and the publicity from making the shortlist and the prominent finalist’s exhibition in Leeds are most certainly raising his profile further . “I think a lot of people have seen (my work), so it’s one of those things that might have an effect in the future,” Fitzmaurice said. “It’s been good being involved in it.”

Our fingers are most definitely crossed for him as the winner is announced Wednesday. We think he has a pretty good shot at it. There’s a kind of quiet rightness about his work; it is both thoughtful and accessible, with an admirable lightness of touch. For instance, the mobile phone photographs of The Way Things Appear evolved, Fitzmaurice said, out of his work on the Detourist series (which we covered here) where he was manipulating bits of litter he found in the street. “When I did that I started seeing things better. As a part of what I was doing I started recording with my mobile phone camera, just to record my thinking, really,” he recalls. “Often these are the things you walk past and they register a few seconds later. I’m trying to capture that first glimpse.”

And now for a very different kind of first glimpse. If  you’re curious about the next generation of Northern Art Prize finalists (or judges), head to Cornerhouse for Lost is Found. The group exhibition shows work from Manchester and Liverpool artists curated by the city’s pioneering Creative Stars programme, a collaboration between Cornerhouse; music venue Band on the Wall; four city theatres and Unity Radio designed to help talented teenagers develop their creative skills. Standouts include Emily Speed, whose work (pictured left) investigates the role of buildings, photographer Jessa Fairbrother and sculpture from Andrea Booker.

Northern Art Prize exhibition, through 19 February, Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds LS1 3AA. The winner will be announced on 19 January. You can also vote for your favourite artist online at northernartprize.org.uk

Lost is Found, through 19 February, Cornerhouse, 70 Oxford Street, M1 5NH. Images: (From top) Leo Fitzmaurice at Northern Art Prize Exhibition, David Lindsay; from Post-match Exhibition, Leo Fitzmaurice; Emily Speed, egg, nest, home, country, universe from Lost is Found, from The Way Things Appear, Leo Fitzmaurice.

Culture Guides


Black and white classics and a Tarantino-scripted pop-thriller are amongst our Valentine’s themed picks for February.


The world of art and exhibitions never quite stops, so we have lots of new shows to look forward to at the start of 2023.

The Spongebob Musical at the Manchester Opera House


New year, new start, and what better way to welcome in 2023 than by planning and experiencing all sorts of exciting family events in Manchester and the North?

Gwendoline Riley. Photo by Adrian Lourie


From local writing to international talent, we have heaps of online launches and in real life readings not to mention some extra special festival events coming our way in live literature land.


More brilliant gigs appear on the horizon as we inch further into 2023.

Theatre in Manchester and the North


Queer Contact Festival, stunning physical theatre and intimate in-the-round performance top our eclectic list of drama, comedy and dance this month.

Classical Music

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester and the north.

Food and Drink

Start 2023 as you mean to go on, with the best restaurants and bars in Manchester and the North.

Tours and Activities

New years are for new experiences, and we have a whole lot of ideas to inspire you as 2023 gets underway.

Things to do right now

Powered by culturehosts
Activity Until 3 February 2023, from £30.00

Baumka Conscious Clubbing at Victoria Warehouse

Activity Until 8 February 2023, from £170.00

Drawing course with Nina Hunter

Music Until 16 February 2023, from £9.50

Donna Candy at SOUP

vegan super club
Activity Until 17 February 2023, from £50

Supper Club at the Vegetarian Society Cookery School

Exhibitions Until 18 February 2023, FREE

The Confessional at HOME

PUSH Festival 2023 at HOME
Festivals Until 18 February 2023,

PUSH Festival 2023 at HOME

The Singing Mermaid at Waterside
Families Until 19 February 2023, from £14.00

The Singing Mermaid at Waterside CANCELLED

Activity Until 23 February 2023, from £59.99

Write Like A Grrrl: Ignite

Activity Until 25 February 2023, from £13

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House Tour

Fairy Tales at Z-Arts
Families Until 26 February 2023, from £3.00

Fairy Tales at Z-arts