Jo Henwood, Chester Chronicle
Photos Margaret Precious, James Wallace

Chester composer, musician and theatre director Matt Baker has been awarded for his contribution to the arts in the county.

The artistic director of Theatre in the Quarter, who composed the music for the past three cycles of the award winning Chester Mystery Plays, was presented with the Outstanding Contribution award at the Cheshire Community and Voluntary Arts Awards at Chester Town Hall yesterday evening (Tuesday, May 10). The judges said: “If anyone embodies the spirit of community involvement in the arts in Cheshire, it is Matt Baker.

"For around 20 years, Matt has been inspiring Cheshire community members of all ages to participate in music and drama. As an individual, as musical director of Chester choir A Handbag of Harmonies and as artistic director of Theatre in the Quarter, Matt is unrivalled in his ability to enthuse and inspire people to explore their creative potential. He has been composer and musical director of the last three cycles of the Chester Mystery Plays, now probably the largest regular community drama project in the UK.”

“His work takes him around the UK and internationally to places as far as Australia, India, Burma, Turkey, Hong Kong and Malaysia, but his dedication to work in Chester and Cheshire is enormous. He is also responsible for generating over 15 years of artistic activity in the Garden Quarter neighbourhood of Chester.”

After receiving the award, Matt said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have won the Outstanding Contribution award, that Theatre in the Quarter won the Community Performing Arts award for the second year in a row and that Chester City Passion was highly commended. It was wonderful being in a room with many other organisations and individuals who have supported me or collaborated with us and to be able to thank them personally.

“My training ground was with Action Transport Theatre and I have had a long and fruitful association with Jo Sykes and the Chester Mystery Plays, Homegrown Dance Theatre, Cheshire Dance and Dee Video to name a few. Collaboration and participation is what I am about and what is so important in the arts. It will be especially important with the opening of the new theatre in Chester later this year.”

Over the years Matt has worked with thousands of young and adult members of the community and highlights of his work include: Across the World at Chester Amphitheatre in 2012, a BBC Music Nation event in advance of the London 2012 Olympics; Over by Christmas in 2014, to coincide with the 100th commemoration of the First World War; Best Days of our Lives at Chester Cathedral.

Most recently, Chester City Passion was the success of Matt Baker’s vision, both directed and musically directed by him. This involved more than 200 participants of all ages and an audience of thousands to a single performance in Chester city centre.