Competition Winners – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Art & Literature

Louise Welland, Art Winner & Sumi Watters, Literary Winner

Earlier this year Watford Area Arts Forum (WAAF) announced a competition based on Elton John’s iconic album, ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’.  The competition was divided into two categories, art and literature. Entrants were asked to use the song titles, lyrics, illustrations on the album cover or take any inspiration from the record itself. October 2023 marks the 50th Anniversary of the album’s release!

Aga Dychton, Deputy Mayor, Sumi Watters, Literary Winner and Mick Callanan, Literary Judge

Helen Nicell, WAAF Chair said, “I am delighted we had twenty entries in each category for the competition, with an exhibition at Watford Museum displaying the entries throughout September, the final results being announced at the end of the month. Initially there was a public vote, then the ten shortlisted entries were passed to the independent judges. We were very fortunate that the original artist of the album’s cover, Ian Beck, agreed to judge the art competition.  He was unable to attend the presentation, but local Art Historian, Ian Welland announced the results on his behalf. We were also very pleased that Mick Callanan, Delivery Director for the Orwell Youth Prize and an English Teacher for over 30 years, agreed to judge the literary category.”

Louise Welland, Art Winner received her trophy from Aga Dychton, Deputy Mayor

The prize money for the competitions was kindly donated by Watford Council. 

Brian Cowan, Louise Welland, Sumi Watters, Mick Callanan and Aga Dychton


Literary Competition – Please click here to read all entries.

1st Sumi Watters – Aeroplanes and Electric Boots

Mick Callanan, Literary Judge said, This vignette managed to achieve a tricky combination of elements while looking deceptively simple. Developing some profound ideas, while keeping the language suitably simple for a child is no easy ask. The sense of the innocent narrator who may be witnessing at a remove some wrong being done to her mother is ultimately resolved with a genuine surprise. The album sleeve is cleverly employed by the touch of the author here is light. A thoroughly satisfying use of 500 words and a deserved winner.”

2nd – Liz Shaw – The Tale of the Horny-Back Toad

Mick said, It has some evocative imagery and is highly descriptive. This modern folktale is wittily drawn, not just from ideas in the songs but from a rainbow of colours and imaginative associations. It also has a killer closing line!”

3rd – Veronica Montgomery – The Mystery of Alice Vaughan Williams

Mick said, I really enjoyed this one, in the clever use of not just the song’s lyrics, turning them into interesting and interlocking bits of character and plot detail, but it also captures something of the song’s tone: at once sensational and oddly sympathetic. What made it one of the best pieces is how convincing it is in the mode of local crime reporting, very difficult to emulate.”

Art Competition – Please click here to view all entries

1st – Louise Welland – Our Yellow Brick Road

Ian Beck, Art Judge said, “A collage brimming with energy and importantly so many local Watford references. An entertainment in itself, sophisticated and brilliantly designed and a good match for the album itself, history, musicality, and biography all bundled together and worn lightly.”

2nd Place – Nadi Shanassi – Saturday Night

Ian said, “A very sensitive painting with lyrical colour harmonies and paint handling. Echoes of Braque and even perhaps Chagall in the feeling of the image. Obviously the first part of the song’s title inspired Nadi more than the ‘alright for fighting’ part. There is a real sense of tranquility and accomplishment here.”

3rd Place – Brian Cowan – Goodbye Norma Jean

Ian said, “A very graphic image of Marilyn here. Stark almost echoing the feel of a lino or woodcut. It is expressive and celebratory and comes close to actually illustrating the actual lyric and the real sense of sadness inherent in the song itself.”

Louise Welland’s winning art piece was a collage based on Queen’s Road of old and local celebrities. Watford Museum have requested if this piece could be donated to hang in the new Watford Museum and Louise was delighted to agree to this.

Grateful thanks to the judges, Watford Council, Watford Museum and to everyone that took part. Thanks for the music Elton and thanks for suggesting the competition Ian Welland.

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