It’s an Honour!
Skegness resident of 30 years John Byford has recently been awarded the status of “Honoured Citizen” in recognition of his exceptional contribution to promoting Skegness in the field of Art and Culture. This prestigious accolade was the result of a unanimous vote by Skegness Town Council.
Tributes have come pouring in from across Europe, a reflection of the connections John has forged through his work in Skegness’ Twin Town of Bad Gandersheim and beyond. The Mayor of the German town, Franziska Schwarz sent her congratulations saying: “We have always understood that all the effort John has made in the arts was motivated by his wish to promote the friendship between our towns and countries.” His Brexit Box project remains a popular feature in the centre of the town and attracted huge publicity as it makes a powerful statement about community in the face of politics.
John worked with Intercultural policy expert, project designer and curator Chris Torch on the transnational project SEAS focusing on coastal locations of which Skegness was a key feature. Chris said “I can’t imagine a more deserving Skegness citizen for this award. He created a living bridge between his hometown and the rest of the world. What could be more important?”
Pollyanne Trapmore-Shaw as Theatre Manager at Skegness Embassy has worked with John on curation of exhibitions at the venue, she pays tribute to the way in which he defies convention in an often playful yet business-like way describing him as a challenge, something that those who know him would undoubtedly agree with. She states: “It delights me that John has been recognised for the ambition and esteem he has for our hometown and the people of Skegness.”
Jens Frimann of Passage Festival, an international street theatre festival which unites cities in Denmark and Sweden echoes this sentiment, he says of John’s artistic talent that “he lets the people of Skegness, whoever they are, and their incredible world come forward in his artwork.”
John Byford sees his art as the perfect means of communication as in art there are no borders, it is a universal language that can speak to all. In a world where the smartphone could make photographers of us all John’s work stands out from the crowd, his keen eye reveals truths, it raises eyebrows, has provoked laughter and tears but importantly it makes people look. He has put Skegness on the map through Art and Culture and believes that it will play an increasingly more significant role in the future. John’s images of Skegness have been featured by the BBC in their national coverage of the recent lockdowns, he suggests that a positive outcome from our experience of the pandemic could be that it has taught us to be more creative and to use our eyes more wisely.
When asked what being conferred with Honoured Citizen of Skegness meant to him, John replied “It’s an honour to be honoured and a great privilege to be recognised for my hard work to promote Skegness over many years"