10-year-old’s prize-winning climate art lights up Piccadilly Circus

Afsana Miah (centre), Hanna Jelonkiewicz (right) and Jayden Rodriguez Kent (left) celebrate as Miah’s first-place piece is announced on the Piccadilly Lights. Pic: Jamie Richards

A 10-year-old from Tower Hamlets has had her prize-winning artwork displayed on the iconic Piccadilly Lights in Piccadilly Circus, central London.

Afsana Miah, a pupil at Lansbury Lawrence Primary School in Poplar, took first prize in this year’s Young London Print Prize ahead of 2000 students aged 9 to 11 from 34 schools across London.

The print, entitled “Alone, Darkness” depicts a jellyfish drifting in a dark ocean to reflect the climate change theme of this year’s contest.

Miah said it was “shocking” to see her artwork displayed on the famous screens of Piccadilly Circus. Pic: Jamie Richards

“Alone, Darkness” was displayed on the famous 780m2 screen for 10 minutes on October 25 alongside second and third-place entries by Hanna Jelonkiewicz and Jayden Rodriguez Kent.

Miah told ELL she felt “proud” to see her artwork displayed and that she hoped to continue making art in the future. 

Afsana Miah was joined by her family and teachers, including headteacher Owen O’Regan (left). Pic: Jamie Richards

Owen O’Regan, headteacher at Lansbury Lawrence Primary School, said the school was “so proud” of Miah: “To see her work up in lights like that is fantastic.”

O’Regan added: “[Art] gives [young people] the opportunity to express themselves in a different way. These issues are things they think about a lot, they’re on the news a lot, they discuss them in class a lot.”

Jelonkiewicz, who attends The Good Shepherd Catholic Primary School near Shepherd’s Bush, said it was important to share a message about climate change: “People could understand that we are trying to show them that they could change the world.”

Rodriguez Kent, a pupil of St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Primary School in Fulham, told ELL: “I was happy when I was making it […] it’s been fun because I keep having to go and take pictures with people!”

Matt Bell said he felt excited for the winners to have their work displayed, which he said was a rare event even for the most famous artists. Pic: Jamie Richards

Matt Bell, chair of Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair and co-founder of the Young London Print Prize, told ELL: “If we want to tackle climate change, we need to be much more creative about it.

“It’s not just a science problem – climate change is about our choices and values, and if you’re going to change them you need art and culture.”

Bell also said: “Arts education in schools has routinely been underfunded and undervalued. Most of the schools that we work in have almost no resources. That would be wrong in any context. But in a climate crisis, it’s just madness.”

The contest was judged by a panel of 25 A-Level students aged 16 to 17 with no adult input allowed, which is done to develop these students’ skills as art judges and panellists.

Shirley Rodrigues, London’s Deputy Mayor for environment and energy, said: “It’s fantastic to recognise so many talented young people and take inspiration from their artistic impressions of climate change. Let this be further encouragement to do everything in our power to tackle the climate crisis.”

Miah, Jelonkiewicz and Rodriguez Kent will have their prints exhibited at the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair, held at the Woolwich Works, from October 26 to 29.

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