A POPULAR arts festival has been launched with a Japanese-themed exhibition by community groups and schools.

The entry from St John’s School and Sixth Form College beat off competition to be awarded first place in the Arts Award, which is the opening exhibition of Febfest, in Bishop Auckland Town Hall, today (Monday, February 10).

The winning pupils were presented with their certificates by the High Sherriff of County Durham Peter Bell in the McGuinness Gallery.

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The aim of the project was to create a piece of work that evokes the art and culture of Japan.

Mr Bell said: “Everyone is a winner. I have never had the excitement of having any of my work on the wall so I can only presume it is genuinely thrilling.

“For the 16 groups that haven’t won the award, they produced some outstanding work.”

Dominic Quigley, St John’s School and Sixth Form College art teacher, said: “They (the pupils) have done a wonderful job. We put a lot of work in but there are some beautifully simplistic pieces so I didn’t think we would win.”

Jane Crawford, festival director from Daisy Arts, added: “When I look around this exhibition space I see a wealth of creativity and I’d like to thank all of the teachers and students of the schools that have taken part this year as well as the two community groups, you have produced some fantastic work.”