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A flying start for the latest winners of our festival awards

The five male dancers of New Zealand's Black Grace company were en route to Edinburgh Airport to begin their long journey home on Saturday morning, but they stopped off in the foyer of the Festival Theatre long enough to demonstrate why they were popular winners of one of this week's Herald Angel awards.

Clare Masson: Outstanding among our young reviewers.
Clare Masson: Outstanding among our young reviewers.

Instructed by choreographer Neil Ieremia to "get undressed", the chaps stripped off their shirts and shoes and launched into a brief athletic routine that got Saturday's event off to a flying start.

The week's awards were sponsored by Edinburgh Napier University and presented by Dr Sandra Cairncross, dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Creative Industries. "It is always a pleasure to be involved in handing out awards, especially when they are associated with innovation and creativity. We are very pleased to be involved in today's awards and to be able to build on our relationship with Scotland's creative arts sector and, indeed, our very close ties with all of Edinburgh's festivals," she said.

Alongside the dancers from New Zealanders, the Fringe was well represented in theatre and music. Actor Rosie Wyatt collected the award for Clara Brennan's play Spine at the Underbelly, in which she gives a powerful solo performance as a young woman who is educated and politicised by an elderly lady with whom she seeks shelter.

Both writer and performer create wonderfully well-drawn characters in the girl and the older woman, although the latter never appears onstage in the drama, which has grown from a smaller piece that featured in the Angel-winning Theatre Uncut season.

Shona Reppe and Andy Manley won an Angel as creators of HUFF, a theatrical installation in the foyer of the Traverse theatre which imagines the world of the three pigs and the houses in which they seek shelter from the wolf. With video and sound as part of the 20-minute intimate journey, the work has proved immensely popular with audiences from eight to 80.

Clarsach player Catriona McKay dedicated the Angel that she won with her duo partner, fiddler Chris Stout, to the memory of her sister-in-law, who had died since their concert in St Andrew's and St George's Church, a regular date in the Fringe calendar which this year featured music from the Sally Beamish commission, Seavaigers.

Kim Finlay of The Outhouse in Barony Street Lane picked up the award to the venue, which regularly hosts some of the most vibrant music on the Fringe, with singers Lillian Boutte and Barbara Morrison joined this year by saxophonist Arturo Tappin. She said it was good to be rewarded "for something we'd be doing anyway."

The International Festival's programme had an Angel-winner in Philippe Herreweghe, conductor of Collegium Vocale Gent, whose award was collected by the Festival's planning director Roy Luxford, who delivered a message from the musician.

"The Edinburgh Festival 2014 will forever remain for me an unforgettable, tremendous experience: three of my most deeply cherished masterworks of the whole repertoire, for a highly inspiring audience of connoisseurs. It was also intensely stimulating to work both with my own ensembles and with the SCO. I thank them all for their patience with me," he said. "I am very grateful as well to my friend Jonathan Mills, the most imaginative music director I ever met."

Dancer and choreographer Akram Khan was the winner of the week's Archangel award for a sustained contribution to the Festival, having returned to present Gnosis a decade after his last appearance.

In a video, he said: "I feel honoured and humbled by this Archangel award. I'd like to thank the Edinburgh International Festival, particularly Jonathan Mills, the wonderful audience, The Herald, and finally Mary Brennan, who has been a great supporter through her words, her kind words, generous words. For any artist it is always a privilege to be performing at the Edinburgh International Festival."

Our Little Devil Award for going the extra mile went to Louisa Adamson, the production manager of The God That Comes, 2b Theatre Company of Canada's rock'n'roll cabaret with Hawksley Workman, whose expertise in repairing and maintaining musical instruments and complex electronic equipment ensured the persistence of a fine show even after her own "mild electrocution".

The morning concluded with the revealing of the winner of this year's Wee Cherub award to the best of the Young Critics who submitted reviews of performances at this year's Festival in the project The Herald runs in partnership with the EIF's programme development department.

Of the five published reviews of Khan's Gnosis, the I-Culture Orchestra, Ganesh Versus The Third Reich, Exhibit B, and Owen Windgrave by pupils from Royal High, Broughton, Holy Rood, Portobello and Boroughmuir, Clare Masson of Boroughmuir was selected for her review of the opera which she described as "such a poignantly upsetting story of one man searching for peace".

www.herald-events.com/heraldangels

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